A chicken processing plant in central California will close for about a week starting Tuesday for deep cleaning and to test every employee for COVID-19 after at least eight employees have died from the virus.
The Foster Farms Livingston Poultry Complex in Merced County was declared an outbreak site at the end of June, and county health officials have been working with the company to implement safety measures before the shutdown was ordered.
In addition to the eight employees who have died, 392 have tested positive for COVID-19.
“We agree that the best approach to ensuring the future safety of our Livingston plant workers is to begin anew with a clean slate,” a statement from the company reads. The plant will close Tuesday, September 1 and reopen September 7.
“During this downtime, the company will complete two rounds of deep cleaning and two rounds of COVID-19 testing covering all 1,400 plant employees,” the company states.
The plant was originally ordered to shut down last week, but after conversations with the US Department of Agriculture and county health officials, the closure was moved to September 1, according to local media reports.
“MCDPH allowed Foster Farms additional time before closure due to the massive coordination efforts required to prepare the facility for appropriate disinfection and safe removal of poultry,” the county said in a press release.
Merced County Department of Health says all employees will need to test negative twice within seven days in order to return to work at the plant.
In addition, the health department says Foster Farms needs to make changes to their social distancing of employees on-the-job, expanded break areas, proper personal protection equipment for employees and “other hygiene measures.”
“We further agree with the Merced Public Health Department that opportunities exist to enhance social distancing, add to professional healthcare staffing that will oversee COVID-19 programs, and improve COVID-19 related employee communication,” Foster Farms stated.