More outbreaks at food processing plants, long-term care facilities but county not saying where
JBS Packerland only resumed testing employees at its Green Bay meat facility after the state mandated it, a company spokesman confirmed Thursday evening.
“The State of Wisconsin directed multiple employers in Green Bay to test all of their employees and sent National Guard resources to conduct such testing,” JBS spokesman Cameron Bruett wrote in an email.
Nearly 300 of the company’s 1,200 Green Bay employees had tested positive for coronavirus when JBS stopped testing employees while it temporarily closed the plant, and the county had said it would not force the company to finish testing. JBS is at the center of a massive COVID-19 outbreak at three meat processing facilities in Brown County, where more than 600 cases have been linked to the plants as of Friday.
JBS has 290 confirmed cases among employees, with 58 more cases in the county linked to those employees, according to Brown County Public Health Strategist Claire Paprocki. American Foods Group, another food processing plant in Green Bay, has 203 infected employees and 38 other cases linked.
Salm Partners in the Village of Denmark is standing at 36 confirmed infected employees, according to company spokeswoman Mary Schmidt.
All told, 625, or about 54 percent, of Brown County’s 1,163 coronavirus cases have been linked to those three food facilities, according to figures released Friday. Five people have now died, but it is unclear if any were employees of the meatpacking plants.
Statewide cases surpassed 7,000 on Friday, coming to a total of 7,314 after a spike of 460 cases overnight, likely attributable to a sharp increase in testing. Deaths have reached 327.
Gov. Tony Evers signaled his concern over the growing outbreaks last week. Before sending the National Guard to provide testing support, Evers said the state was “doing everything in our power to get every one of these employees tested.”
JBS was set to finish testing its employees by the end of Friday, Paprocki said. The company has repeatedly refused to say how many employees it tested on its own before the plant shut down. There has not been a reopening date established yet, Bruett said.
It appears that outbreaks may also be beginning at two additional Green Bay plants, Saputo , a cheese packaging plant, and Hansen Foods, which produces frozen pizzas.
The Green Bay Police Department announced Thursday evening that employees and relatives of employees at JBS, American Foods, Saputo, and Hansen Foods could get tested on Friday at the new National Guard testing site set up at the Resch Center.
The National Guard is providing 2,500 tests at the Resch Center for employees and relatives of employees at specifically targeted nursing homes, group homes, health care facilities, and food processing plants.
Paprocki claimed the Health Department does not know if any employees are currently confirmed to be infected at Saputo and Hansen.
A woman who answered the phone at Hansen Foods said the company is declining to comment. She then hung up the phone. A Saputo Cheese spokesman confirmed in an email that the company has “several” employees with coronavirus.
Capt. Joe Trovato, a Wisconsin National Guard spokesman, said the Guard is not tracking outbreaks at individual facilities, so he was not able to confirm any cases at Hansen.
“We’re just one of the tools for Brown County to utilize,” he said.
A Green Bay Police Department’s spokesman said the department has not been given any information on potential cases there, either.
Paprocki also confirmed there are cases at long-term care facilities in Brown County but refused to say where.