The Greeley beef plant where two workers have died and dozens have been infected in an outbreak of the new coronavirus will shut down until April 24 in an effort to suppress the disease.
Operations at the facility, owned and operated by Brazilian-based JBS, will wind down over the next two days before its doors will until later this month.
The closure will allow for the plant, which employs 6,000, to be cleaned and for staff to be tested for the virus.
The situation at the facility has drawn the attention of the White House, which says it is working with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner to remedy the situation.
“While the Greeley beef facility is critical to the U.S. food supply and local producers, the continued spread of coronavirus in Weld County requires decisive action,” Andre Nogueira, CEO of JBS USA, said in a written statement. “As a leading member of this community, we believe we must do our part to support our local health professionals and first responders leading the fight against coronavirus.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, which represents workers at the plant, says at least 42 workers have tested positive for the virus, including five who are hospitalized.
The union identified the two workers who died as Saul Sanchez, who was 78 but otherwise in good health, and 60-year-old Eduardo Conchas de la Cruz.
Polis said he spoke with Vice President Mike Pence about the situation at the facility three times over the weekend about the need to ensure the closure doesn’t disrupt the nation’s food security.
“Our hearts go out to the families of the JBS workers,” Polis said Monday during a briefing with reporters.
The Colorado National Guard has been offered to assist with the testing of the JBS workers.
Weld County has one of Colorado’s largest coronavirus outbreaks. Through Monday the county had more than 800 confirmed cases of the disease, including 53 deaths.