At least 26 workers at the facility have been infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus, reported the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The Worthington pork facility has more than 2,000 employees and processes about 20,000 hogs per day, according to the company.
President of JBS USA Pork Bob Krebs said that the decision was not made lightly.
“We recognize JBS Worthington is critical to local hog producers, the U.S. food supply, and the many businesses that support the facility each and every day,” he said in a statement.
The facility will continue to operate over the next two days with less staff to make sure that existing products in the facility can be relocated to support the food supply. The company said it will continue to pay employees while the plant is closed.
“In partnership with the state of Minnesota and Nobles County, the company will advise its Worthington team members to follow Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s stay at home order until returning to work,” a statement from the company read.
Walz recently extended the statewide stay at home order to May 4.
Walz said that some JBS employees have relatives who had worked at the Smithfield Foods pork processing facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The facility on April 12 announced it would close indefinitely and for at least 14 days. More than 700 employees at this facility have contracted the CCP virus.
The Epoch Times reported on April 15 that the Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls was visited by representatives from its CCP-tied parent company, WH Group, about one month before March 26 when the first CCP virus case was confirmed there.
Three employees told The Epoch Times that the company offered workers a $500 bonus to keep working after the plant had its first confirmed case. One employee said he or she had informed management multiple times about feeling ill, but was told to keep working. The worker eventually tested positive for COVID-19.
JBS USA is a wholly owned subsidiary of Brazilian company JBS SA, which is the world’s largest processor of fresh beef and pork. JBS USA operates more than 60 meat, poultry and prepared foods facilities across the United States.
Minnesota officials said on Friday that there are 30 confirmed CCP virus cases in Worthington. Across Minnesota, at least 2,356 infections and 134 deaths were recorded as of Monday.
JBS USA’s Worthington facility is the third JBS USA plant to temporarily close. The company’s beef production facility in Souderton, Pennsylvania, reopened on Monday, while its beef production facility in Greeley, Colorado, remains closed and won’t reopen until at least April 24.
At least four workers at the plant in Greeley have died from COVID-19.
Other deaths have been recorded at other meat processing plants across the country.
Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.