The Pelican Rapids Jennie-O West Central Turkeys plant. Note health screening tent on outside of building.

Jennie-O confirms cases at West Central Turkeys

Employees at the Pelican Rapids West Central Turkeys plant have been confirmed as infected with COVID-19.

Jennie-O media officers did not specify the number of workers, as of Tuesday morning, May 5.

Pelican and all Jennie-O facilities have staffed on-site nurses, and employees have access to local testing for COVID-19.

“Social distancing has been enacted in our manufacturing plants by having staggered start times, staggered break times and spreading out team members during breaks by using areas outside of the normal cafeteria spaces,” stated Jennie-O officials, in a prepared release. “We have also provided access to masks and personal protective face covering in our plant locations, providing further protections for our teams.”

The news follows confirmation of employees at Jennie-O plants in Willmar, Montevideo and Melrose. West Central is a subsidiary of Austin-based Hormel Foods.

The number of employees at the Pelican plant numbers more than 600.
Unconfirmed reports were received at the Pelican Rapids Press that at least two workers tested positive.

A follow-up meeting with employees at the Pelican Rapids facility was scheduled Tuesday, May 5, but the outcome of that meeting was unknown when this edition of the newspaper went to Press. Also unclear, at this early stage, is whether or not production will be limited or suspended at the Pelican plant.

“At all our locations, the well-being of our team members is of the highest concern and we have been proactive in communicating often to them ensuring that they know that it is okay, and encouraged, to stay at home when feeling unwell,” wrote Jennie-O officials in the prepared statement. “In addition to our high level of cleaning and sanitizing as part of routine operations, we have implemented further enhanced sanitization procedures in all high traffic and high touch areas. Under the guidance of health care professionals, we are taking team members’ temperatures at our facilities.”

Numerous food processing plants in the upper midwest have been in the headlines, as the COVID-19 pandemic has stretched to meatpacking operations. More than 200 workers at a large pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, SD, were confirmed with the virus, prompting a shutdown.
At the Willmar Jennie O plants, at least 14 employees tested positive last week, and the decision was made to close the two operations. Those plants underwent deep cleaning and sanitization, involving a limited number of employees and contractors.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, Jennie-O Turkey Store has taken immense efforts to mitigate its spread in its sales offices and plant locations around the world. As it employs industry-leading prevention and sanitation efforts, the company is now launching its “KEEP COVID OUT!” campaign throughout its facilities and communities,” stated Jennie-O.

“The KEEP COVID OUT! campaign is a reminder that we share a responsibility to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our work, homes and communities. Our company has put numerous protocols in place in all our locations to ensure the health and well-being of our team members,” said Steve Lykken, president of Jennie-O Turkey Store. “With the launch of the KEEP COVID OUT! campaign, we are adding the additional steps to remind people how important all the preventative efforts are once they are out in the community or at home.”
Information from Jennie-O and Hormel corporate offices has been limited, and carefully controlled.

At the Jennie-O plant in Melrose, 19 of the 750 employees tested positive. the plant was temporarily closed, and employees were to receive 100 percent of their pay.

“We have a team of operations, quality control, safety, R&D and human resources who are working each day to think of new ways and opportunities to protect our team members,” the prepared text continued.