Worthington community 'anxious' about reopening of JBS pork plant after outbreak

When the JBS pork plant in Worthington resumes some operations on Wednesday, Mayor Mike Kuhle says the entire community will be holding its breath.

"I'm concerned. I'm anxious. I hope all the precautions have been put in place at the plant," he said.

The plant was shut down for two weeks after nearly 500 workers tested positive for COVID-19. But, after President Donald Trump ordered meat processors to remain open during the pandemic, the plant is going to reopen.

Kuhle says the plant will reopen with new safety measures in place, like increasing the space between workers on the line, putting in dividers and doing enhanced cleaning of the plant.

“We think it’s as safe as possible. They think it’s as safe as possible, but we won't know until they get into the process."

The move is welcome news for hog producers like Pat Von Tersch in Luverne.

“I’m happy they are able to take a swing at opening back up," he said.

Von Tersch didn’t have to euthanize any animals at his operation during the shutdown, and he is scheduled to send about 400 hogs to JBS on Friday if the reopening goes well.

"What's most important from my perspective is we get the supply chain moving again in a safe manner for everyone engaged in the process," he said.

But, Kuhle says residents are worried the former coronavirus hotspot will flare up again.

“They are very concerned. I'm very concerned with the plant reopening, but we know it needs to open. From there, we have to depend on the experts to provide a safe place," Kuhle said.