- All employees at Triumph Foods in Buchanan County, Missouri, were offered COVID-19 testing.
- As of Sunday, 373 employees tested positive for the coronavirus, but none of them were showing symptoms.
- Employees who tested positive were asked to isolate at home and will be paid, the company’s CEO said.
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Triumph Foods, a pork processing plant in St. Joseph, Missouri, held company-wide coronavirus testing last week.
By Sunday, 373 employees had received positive results, state heath officials told Business Insider. But none of them showed symptoms of the disease.
Triumph Foods employs more than 2,800 workers at the plant in St. Joseph, meaning about 13% tested positive for the virus.
“Those with positive tests have been asked to self-isolate at home. They will be paid according to COVID wage continuation policy,” CEO Mark Campbell said in a video to employees on Sunday.
Employees who are self-isolating will also be sent care packages of hand sanitizer and masks, Campbell said.
“We continue to work this weekend contacting these asymptomatic patients and have initiated the process of contact tracing with those determined to be close contacts of our positive cases,” State Health Director Dr. Randall Williams said in the written statement released Sunday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, has estimated that “somewhere between 25% and 50%” of people who have COVID-19 don’t show symptoms. But these asymptomatic or presymptomatic carriers can still spread the illness to other people.
Despite outbreaks and worker deaths, Trump has ordered meat processing plants to stay open during the pandemic
Meat processing plants around the US have been hotspots for the novel coronavirus.
Despite that, President Donald Trump last week took executive action to order meat processing plants to stay open amid concerns over the impact on the nation’s food supply.
Workers’ unions have spoke out against the executive order, raising concerns that it includes no language to ensure that the safety of workers will be protected while the plants remain open.
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents more than 250,000 meatpacking and food processing employees across the country, announced last week that at least 20 workers in the industry have died.
Additionally, at least 5,000 meatpacking workers and 1,500 food processing workers have tested positive, been hospitalized, or had to miss work to self-quarantine, the union said.
“Meatpacking and poultry workers have been working tirelessly through this health crisis so that millions of Americans continue to have access to the food they need. President Trump’s executive order now mandates that they continue to do so, without any language that ensures their safety,” UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement. “Let me be clear, the best way to protect America’s food supply, to keep these plants open, is to protect America’s meatpacking workers.”
While Trump’s order is in place, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has said it will not enforce coronavirus-related safety guidelines for the plants so long as they demonstrate “good faith” efforts to keep workers safe. The agency has not mandated that plants track coronavirus cases among workers and does not require on-site inspections for worker complaints related to the virus.