VERNON — Officials at the Virginia-based company that owns the Farmer John slaughterhouse in Vernon said today they’ve implemented stringent health protocols in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which reportedly has seen about 140 workers at the plant test positive for COVID-19.
“Our Smithfield Family members are crucial to our nation’s response to COVID-19. We thank them for keeping food on America’s tables, and have implemented aggressive measures to protect their health and safety during this pandemic,” Smithfield Foods said in a statement.
The website LAist reported on Thursday that at least 140 employees at the plant have tested positive for the disease caused by the coronavirus over the past few months, after a cluster of six cases were discovered in the plant’s ham deboning department in mid-April.
The story cited Freddie Agyin, director of the Health and Environmental Control Department for the city.
Among the measures the company has put in place:
— Adopted a series of stringent and detailed processes, protocols and protective measures that follow, and many cases exceed, CDC and OSHA guidance for meat and poultry processing workers and employers;
— Boosted personal protective equipment (PPE) to include masks and face shields;
— Installed plexiglass and other physical barriers on the production floor and in break rooms;
— Implemented mass thermal scanning systems to identify employees with elevated temperatures prior to entering facilities;
— Made free voluntary COVID-19 testing available to employees;
— Increased social distancing, wherever possible;
— Added abundant hand sanitizing stations;
— Enhanced cleaning and disinfection;
— Explicitly instructing employees not to report to work if they are sick or exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms;
— Required that sick employees stay home and isolate according to CDC and OSHA guidelines;
— Paying employees, including any and all bonuses, when they are quarantined;
— Offering a paid leave benefit for all employees at high risk for serious complications from COVID-19;
— Expanded employee health benefits and removed all barriers in our health plan to accessing medical care including eliminating co-pays for COVID-19 related testing and treatment;
— Educating all employees about how COVID-19 spreads and how to protect themselves and others;
— Posted employee communications in multiple languages;
— Deferred all nonessential business travel;
— Restricted all nonessential visitors.
Hundreds of pigs are trucked each day into the facility at 3049 E. Vernon Ave., where they are killed and turned into Dodger Dogs and the ham, bacon, sausage and hot dogs sold under the Farmer John label.
Attempts to reach Vernon city officials were unsuccessful.