Two major Indiana pork producers are getting back to work in a limited capacity after suspending operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tyson Fresh Meats resumed operations Thursday at its Logansport facility, while Indiana Packers Corp. says work will resume Friday in Delphi.
Indiana Packers says it is reopening with support from the Carroll County Department of Health after suspending production two weeks ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company says it worked with the county health department and the Indiana State Department of Health to test more than 2,200 employees and contractors who work at the facility. The testing was completed May 1.
The effort found 301 employees and contractors who tested positive for the coronavirus, including some who were asymptomatic. The company says those people will be subject to quarantine and those who tested negative will be allowed to return to work as long as they are not symptomatic.
County Health Officer Dr. Jordan Dutter says he toured the plant Wednesday and reviewed the safety initiatives undertaken by the company.
“I was very impressed with IPC’s ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus and the Company’s dedication to best ensure the health and safety of its team members,” Dutter said in a news release. “Based upon my tour and review of IPC’s mitigation efforts, I believe the measures taken by IPC will allow those team members to work safely, as IPC continues to follow CDC guidelines and recommendations. I want to reiterate that IPC went to extensive efforts to ensure the safety of their employees, their end product and ultimately the consumers.”
Among the steps taken, IPC says it has added more physical barriers and hand sanitizer for employees. The company has also implemented several steps of deep cleaning and sanitation throughout the plant.
The company says it will work to increase physical distancing starting in the parking lot and entrances, continuing with staggered start and break times.
“This pause in operations and the testing of our employees was absolutely a critical moment in our ongoing effort to create a safe work environment,” said IPC President and Chief Operating Officer Russ Yearwood. “The safety of our team members, contractors and the community are crucial. We suspected the testing process would generate an increase in positive cases unknown to us, but this was the point. This voluntary testing event identified those who are positive for the virus.”
Tyson originally planned to reopen operations on Monday, however a spokesperson tells Inside INdiana Business employees returned to work on Thursday. The plant also closed two weeks ago after a large number of its employees tested positive for COVID-19.
“All employees who have tested positive will remain on sick leave until they have satisfied official health requirements outlined by the CDC for return to work, and we have increased short-term disability coverage to 90% of normal pay until June 30 to encourage team members to stay home when they are sick,” the spokesperson said.
Tyson says employees who have not been tested will be unable to return to work until they test negative. All new hires will be tested before starting at the plant.
The company says it has implemented safety precautions as employees returned to work, including protective social distancing measures, an on-site mobile health clinic that will provide services such as COVID-19 testing, providing facial coverings and requiring they be worn, and wellness checks to screen for symptoms.
The decisions to reopen comes just over a week after President Donald Trump signed an executive order ordering meat packing plants to remain open.