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2 workers at Forrest City meat processing plant test positive for covid-19

by Joseph Flaherty | May 12, 2020 at 4:34 p.m.
This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes covid-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. On Thursday, March 5, 2020, Tennessee's Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey confirmed the state's first case of the new coronavirus. (NIAID-RML via AP)

Two employees at a meat processing plant in Forrest City owned by the delicatessen company Boar’s Head have tested positive for covid-19, the company confirmed Tuesday.

The employees have been ordered to quarantine, the company said in a statement provided in response to questions from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

“The health and safety of our employees is our top priority as we manage around COVID-19 and we have implemented numerous precautions to continue operating safely as part of the nation’s critical infrastructure to keep America fed,” the statement said.

Elizabeth Ward, a spokeswoman for Boar’s Head Brand, told the Democrat-Gazette in an email that the Forrest City plant produces select delicatessen meats.

She did not immediately respond to questions regarding how many plant workers have been tested for covid-19 and the total number of employees at the facility.

Meat and poultry processing facilities nationwide have been wracked by coronavirus infections among workers, reportedly reducing their capacity during the covid-19 pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month reported that 115 meat or poultry processing facilities in 19 states had reported covid-19 cases as of April 27. More than 4,900 workers had tested positive and 20 workers had died in connection to covid-19, the CDC reported, based on data provided from the states.

A recent executive order issued by President Donald Trump directed the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to ensure meat and poultry plants remain open to the maximum extent possible as an industry critical to the nation’s food supply.

The statement from Boar’s Head said the company is adhering to all federal and state guidelines to prevent infections, including “routine and frequent daily deep cleaning and sanitizing throughout our facility, increased distancing within common areas and manufacturing spaces when possible, and temperature checks before entering the facility.”

“We have also heightened safety and mitigation measures, such as limiting facility access to critical personnel, reinforcing hygiene and safety guidelines with all employees, and increasing the number of pieces of personal protective equipment required,” the statement said.

Forrest City is also facing a covid-19 outbreak in the nearby federal prison that has infected 332 inmates and 17 staff members, according to the latest figures provided Tuesday by the Arkansas Department of Health.


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