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Turkey plant taking steps to prevent COVID-19 outbreak

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JENNIE-O SAFETY 04-29-2020

Picture of the Jennie-O sign in Barron

Barron (WQOW) - After some cases of COVID-19 among employees forced operations to pause at a Minnesota turkey facility, that raised questions about similar operations in our area.

With roughly 1,200 team members employed at the Jennie-O Turkey Store processing plant in Barron, COVID-19 is a real concern. News 18 learned what steps the company is taking to prevent spreading the virus.

Jennie-O officials said they started talking about ways to combat COVID-19 in late January, and in early March, they began implementing extra safety precautions.

Barron plant manager Chad Nisbit said employees normally worked three to four feet apart, but lately they've been practicing social distancing and doing extra sanitation.

"Everyone in the facility right now has safety glasses, cotton masks," said Nisbit. "We are also in the process this week, we've gotten face shields that employees can wear on their helmets. Those are items that we are testing."

And if a team member does catch the coronavirus, they will be compensated.

"In mid-March, we rolled out a program, that is a COVID-paid program, so that if employees are sick, we're asking them to stay home and we will pay them for staying home because their welfare and the welfare of their fellow team members is that important to us," said Richard Carolson, vice-president of quality management for Hormel Foods, the parent company of Jennie-O.

Jennie-O installed 75 to 80 plastic barriers in the Barron plant's cafeteria to visually remind employees about social distancing. Carlson said employees are not required to eat alone, but if they do eat within less than six feet of each other, he said they should have a barrier between them.

As of Wednesday, Jennie-O officials said they were not aware of any team members who have tested positive at the Barron plant. They also said if a team member does test positive for COVID-19, they do not foresee closing the Barron location.

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