George’s confirms COVID-19 cases at three production facilities; additional workplace safety measures announced

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 2,048 views 

Springdale-based poultry company George’s Inc. said Tuesday (April 28) it has confirmed COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases at three of its production facilities, but the company has not closed any of its plants.

In a news release issued Tuesday, George’s said the three plants “have experienced at least one confirmed positive” case of coronavirus.

George’s employs 7,000 workers in eight production plants in Arkansas (4), Virginia (2) Missouri and Tennessee.

A company spokeswoman declined to identify the three locations that have diagnosed coronavirus cases.

“At each of the affected plants, we immediately implemented our COVID-19 response plan actions, making sure that all health, safety, and sanitation measures were implemented, including deep cleaning procedures and notification of any coworkers who had possible close contact with these individuals,” the company said in a statement. “Our approach, and the practices we have adopted, follow the guidance issued by the CDC and utilize the hierarchy of controls.”

The company said its Crisis Response Leadership Team is working proactively to stay up to date with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and local health department guidelines to make adjustments to business operations and policies as needed.

“Our team is closely overseeing all aspects of our strategies, and we are collaborating with our business partners across industries to prepare for all scenarios that may unfold,” the statement said. “We will not compromise our safety, health, nor environmental values for profit or production.”

George’s also announced several additional safety guidelines at its production facilities. Protocol updates include but are not limited to:

  • Team member screening, including temperature checks, prior to the beginning of each working shift to ensure that anyone who has a temperature or is symptomatic can choose to return home or seek medical assistance
  • Mandated the use of face coverings for all team members while at work
  • Installed partitions in the break rooms and created outdoor break spaces to allow more distance between employees (where our facility footprint allows for it and proper safety precautions can be taken)
  • Installed partitions and/or physical barriers between workstations in all areas where team members cannot reasonably social distance
  • Contingency plans in place to reduce potential production downtime
  • Modification of attendance policy for absences associated with COVID- 19
  • Taking an individualized approach at each George’s location and establishing procedures and processes that are specific to local conditions and externally-reported cases; established a Crisis Response Team at each location
  • Established GMP monitors to conduct observations at handwashing stations to ensure proper handwashing procedures are followed, educate team members of proper handwashing, and perform periodic symptom and temperature checks throughout the facility
  • Initiated a rigorous investigation process to identify any team members who may have been in close contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID19 and to instruct those team members to quarantine or follow CDC guidelines
  • Increased systems to ensure adequate and increased ventilation in our facilities to help minimize potential exposures.

George’s announcement comes amid growing concerns of significant disruption to the country’s meat supply chain because of the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump ordered meat-processing plants to remain open, declaring them critical infrastructure as the nation confronts growing disruptions to the food supply.

Trump plans to use the Defense Production Act to order the companies to stay open, according to the report, and the government will provide additional protective gear for employees as well as guidance, according to the person. The order will affect all processing plants supplying beef, chicken, eggs and pork.