MONMOUTH, Ill. (NEWS3) — Days after a local food plant re-opened following a shutdown due to workers testing positive for COVID-19, officials said steps are in place to keep employees safe.
The City of Monmouth announced Wednesday, several measures are in place at Smithfield Foods to address concerns for continuing business during the coronavirus pandemic.
This comes after the pork-processing plant re-opened Saturday and all workers returned back to work Monday following a week of the plant closing down. The company’s management said a “small portion” of its employees tested positive for COVID-19.
The Warren County Health Department said April 17, three employees at the plant were confirmed with the virus and health officials started an investigation. Warren County’s coronavirus cases soared in the days to follow and the plant announced it would suspend operations a week later. Smithfield Foods management then said a week after it would reopen in the wake of an executive order signed by President Trump to keep meat-packing plants open.
Monmouth city officials and the Warren County Health Department released Wednesday the following list of new safety measures at the plant since resuming operations:
- Smithfield will begin voluntary COVID-19 testing of all plant employees
- All employees wear face masks and shields while working in the plant
- Comprehensive symptom screening is performed before employees are allowed to enter the
- No worker is permitted to work while sick and thermal scanning is performed daily
- Plexiglass barriers have been installed in areas where employees are not able to maintain
adequate distance from other employees
- Sanitization is performed after every work shift
- A work crew has been assigned to sanitize employee hands every 15 minutes
- Outdoor structures have been constructed to enable worker breaks in the open air with social
- Picnic and lunch tables have had plexiglass barriers installed in order to separate employees
from potential contact
- The use of all communal appliances like microwaves and vending machines have been
discontinued in an effort to reduce cross contamination
- Sanitary fogging is conducted multiple times a day
- A work crew has been assigned to disinfect all contact surfaces 24/7 with a mixture of chlorine
- Air circulation and exchange has been restricted
- Employees over the age of 60 may opt for a paid leave due to an increased risk of complications
- Daily briefings and regular site inspections are being held with the Warren County Health
Department and the City Of Monmouth
“Smithfield has presented unique challenges when dealing with COVID-19 considerations,” officials said. “Employees at the facility commute from a 6-county radius that includes a metro area and also cross state lines. Due to the size of the area the employees reside in, it requires extensive tracing to be performed when a positive case is discovered. Further complicating the issue, contact tracing by the health department has found that the infections have occurred via community spread. Community spread may result from personal interactions, confined work quarters, or public contact surfaces.”
Warren County currently has 89 positive coronavirus cases and 182 negative tests.
Smithfield Foods in Monmouth has 1,700 employees.