California chicken plant shuts down after 8 employees die and over 400 test positive for COVID-19 – Totally Vegan Buzz
Image: Artem Bali / Pexels

‘If we’re going to keep food on our tables during this pandemic, we must do a better job of protecting the essential workers…’

On September 1, Foster Farms temporarily closed its main poultry processing plant in Livingston, Calif. after nearly 400 workers tested positive for coronavirus and eight lost their lives.

The move followed after the Merced County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) branded the outbreak as the “most severe and long-lasting outbreak” in the county.

In its press release, the department stated that MCDPH notified Foster Farms that its Livingston Facility was officially declared an outbreak on June 29th and since then 392 workers have tested positive for the virus and eight have died from it.  

California chicken plant shuts down after 8 employees die and over 400 test positive for COVID-19
Image: Idealphotographer / shutterstock.com

‘Stemming the spread’

It added that shutting down a food production facility was the only option left in getting this outbreak under control.

“This Health Order is a significant step toward our ultimate goal of stemming the spread of COVID-19 in our community and saving lives,” Merced County Public Health Officer Salvador Sandoval said.

 “We take these types of situations very seriously. We’re grateful that Foster Farms was willing to come to the table and reach an agreement that will protect its employees while providing a blueprint for the company to continue its critical food production operations.”

In an effort to sterilize the plant and screen workers, Foster Farms suspended operations at its main Livingston processing plant on Tuesday evening and will resume on Monday evening, September 7.

“During this downtime, the company will complete two rounds of deep cleaning and two rounds of COVID-19 testing covering all 1,400 plant employees. The testing program will ensure that all workers first reentering the plant on September 7 will be free of COVID-19,” Heidi White of Foster Farms said in an online statement.

 ‘Hit the reset button’

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said: “If we’re going to keep food on our tables during this pandemic, we must do a better job of protecting the essential workers who are putting it there. That means standing up for the people in our poultry facilities, agricultural fields, meat processing plants, restaurants, grocery stores, and more.”

“Foster Farms’ poultry operation in Livingston, California has experienced an alarming spread of COVID-19 among its workers. Nobody can ignore the facts: It’s time to hit the reset button on Foster Farms’ Livingston plant.”

According to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, which has been maintaining data of the positive cases and deaths, of August 31, there have been at least 38,500 reported positive cases tied to meatpacking facilities in at least 417 plants in 40 states, and at least 180 reported worker deaths in at least 50 plants in 27 states.

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