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34 JBS employees test positive for COVID-19

Joel Greer

As of Monday, 34 employees of JBS process plant have tested positive for COVID-19.

The outbreak came after an Iowa Workforce Development OSHA complaint was filed earlier this month by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) of Iowa, or Council No. 307, against JBS in Marshalltown.

“This is serious stuff, people are dying,” said Mayor Joel Greer. Greer confirmed the number of infected workers at JBS Monday evening.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Iowa hard since this weekend with 389 cases reported on Sunday and 257 new confirmed cases on Monday. At least 3,159 people in Iowa have tested positive for COVID-19 and 79 people have died from the virus.

On Monday Gov. Kim Reynolds has chosen not to close down meat packing plants around the state out fear of disrupting the country’s food supply.

She is also one the few governor’s in the United States to not issue a stay at home order.

The OSHA complaint states that unsafe working conditions at the JBS in Marshalltown exist in cutting, processing, break and dressing rooms. According to the complaint JBS employs 2,700 people in Marshalltown “who work shoulder to shoulder in most of the meat cutting and processing department rooms at the facility.”

The LULAC’s complaint cites meat-packing plants all over Iowa and was sent to OSHA after a worker at the JBS facility in Ottumwa tested positive for COVID-19 and another employee was in self-isolation.

Since the complaint was filed, outbreaks have been reported in meat packing plants all across Iowa, including at Tyson’s in Waterloo and Columbus Junction and National Beef in Tama. After COVID-19 was identified at National Beef, the plant was shut down for cleaning, but was reopened again on Monday.

A huge spike of COVID-19 cases – 389 – was reported on Sunday in the state. Of those cases, 67 percent were in meat packing facilities.

JBS is posting the number of employees tested positive in a common at its facilities. Around the country JBS has closed three of its facilities and on Monday it closed a plant in Minnesota after 20 employees and five of their families members tested positive for COVID-19.

JBS didn’t respond to calls for comment from the T-R.

Mayoral response

Greer wants to see a stay at home order issued soon because of the plant and veterans home. He doesn’t believe he has the power as a mayor to order residents to stay at home.

“I wish as the mayor I had the power to issue an order to stay at home, because I lack the power I am posting on my mayor’s web page on Facebook to tell people to stay at home,” Greer said.

He also advises people to wash their hands for 30 seconds as opposed to 20 seconds.

“People that we know will be dying and sick,” Greer said. “Please don’t show up at stores with six people.”

He strongly advises residents to abide by social distancing.

“I know that there’s already a backlash in this country and protesters are showing up in Ohio and other places saying ‘no’,” Greer said. “That is stupid, and the prudent thing is to stay at home, follow all the suggestions the governor has made.”

He wants employers around Marshalltown to put in place mask wearing rules.

“It sucks to be the mayor during two major disasters like this,” Greer said. “The miracle is no one died in the tornado and so far nobody has died in Marshalltown.”

Earlier in the day 18 more cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Marshall County.

There are 173 confirmed cases in the county. Seventy-two of those cases were confirmed on Saturday.

Throughout Iowa, there are 3,159 cases of COVID-19 and there have been 79 deaths. There have been no COVID-19 deaths in Marshall County.

“Already we’re seeing the effect here locally and it really hurts me as a mayor and a consumer,” Greer said.

Some of Greers favorite restaurants aren’t open anymore because of the COVID-19 pandemic and Lennux will soon have lay-offs.

Greer wants people to realize the severity of the pandemic and how lives are at risk.

“People are losing their jobs, the local economy could be devastated if people don’t follow the rules,” Greer said.

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Contact Thomas Nelson at (641)753-6611 or tnelson@timesrepublican.com

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