The Livingston-based company said in a statement over the weekend that it would not resume operations until 7 September. During the week-long shutdown, two rounds of COVID-19 testing will be conducted for the plant’s 1,400 employees. The company said that two rounds of deep cleaning will also be done for the facility.
The announcement was followed by discussions between Foster Farms and the Mered County Department of Public Health, which originally declared the outbreak of the Livingston facility in late June. County health officials said in a separate statement on Saturday that they were issuing an order to close the plant for a period of six days.
The department said the shutdown could be extended if proper cleaning and employee testing could not be achieved within a week. Facilities not affected by the outbreak will remain open and staff there will receive regular testing.
Officials said the outbreak at the Foster Farm Livingston complex has become “the most severe and long-lasting outbreak in the county.” In total, 392 workers have tested positive for the virus and eight have died. The local health department said late last month that Foster Farms employees had a 2.2 percent fatality rate in the county’s general population, up from 1.3 percent.
“This health order is an important step towards the spread of COVID-19 in our community and our ultimate goal of saving lives,” said Salvador Sandoval, Public Health Officer of Mered County. “We take these types of situations very seriously. We are grateful that Foster Farms was ready to come to the table and reach an agreement providing a blueprint for the company to continue its important food production operations Will protect its employees. ”
The Health Department previously said that officials at Foster Farms had not already given their advice to employees on ways to overcome the potential danger from coronovirus, CBS News reported. The company reportedly took several weeks to implement the wide-scale test.
The local health department also notes that the tally on worker coronovirus infections is based primarily on employees who are voluntarily tested, meaning “true prevalence” is unknown.
Food processing plants and other workplaces, where employees are in close contact with each other, have emerged as common spots for outbreaks of the coronovirus epidemic. For example, more than half the workforce at a Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Perry, Iowa, tested positive for COVID-19 in early May.
According to a database maintained by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, 38,500 meatpacking plant employees tested positive for the virus amid the epidemic, which included at least 180 people.