Pilgrim's Pride plant implements COVID-19 mitigation efforts after uptick in cases, activists want more

Workers at Pilgrim’s Pride Poultry Processing Plant raised concerns over fears for their health inside the facility as COVID-19 cases have exploded.

After employees became more vocal about it last week, managers at the plant say they are taking some actions to protect people.

As of Monday, state health workers confirmed 194 cases of the virus inside the plant, which is more than double in the last few days.

Some Pilgrim’s Pride employees told FOX 9 last week there was hardly any PPE for employees, workers were still in large groups processing the poultry, and many of them feared they would lose their jobs if they stayed home.

At Tuesday evening’s Cold Spring City Council Meeting, community activists representing some of the workers asked city leaders to get involved with the situation there.

“The workers would like the plant shut down for two weeks for cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting the whole plant and there needs to be mass testing for all 1,100 workers and only workers who test negative should be allowed to come back to work,” said Natalie Ringsmuth, of Unite Cloud.

A spokesperson from Pilgrim’s Pride told FOX 9 they are allowing any worker who comes down with COVID-19 to stay home and are providing full benefits and short-term disability. Among other social mitigation efforts, the plant says they are in fact providing PPE and keeping workers separated.

“We are promoting physical distancing by staggering start times and breaks, increasing disinfecting efforts, including deep cleaning every single day,” said Wesley Smith, the manager of Pilgrim’s Pride’s Cold Spring plant.

Three Jennie-O meat processing plants in Stearns County with fewer cases than Pilgrim’s Pride have closed for now.

Pilgrim’s says they would not continue operating a plant if they, “Don’t believe it’s safe.”