The outbreak of the coronavirus among workers at the Farbest Foods plant in Huntingburg marked the latest in a rash of problems with the disease in meat processing plants around the country and around the state. Meat processing is considered an essential industry, and that means despite the disaster declarations of counties, states and the nation, the work will continue.

It also means the plants are putting out all of the efforts they can to keep COVID-19 away from the workforce.

That is what is going on at the Perdue plant on Washington’s west side. “We are testing people and they are testing people all the time,” said Daviess County Public Health Nurse Kathy Sullender. “We really are doing all we can to try and keep people safe.”

Meat processing plants seem to be a problem place for the spread of the coronavirus.

The Perdue processing plant earlier in the week.

In many of the plants people work closely together and it is not unusual for those from outside of the community to ride together.

“There are a lot of ways for the virus to spread,” said Sullender. “All it really takes is just one sick person coming into work.”

To try and keep the coronavirus out of the workforce, companies like Perdue are putting more stringent procedures in place that start with checking an employee’s temperature and extend throughout the operation.

Perdue’s corporate website has listed some of the efforts: “We have the highest standards of bio-security and food safety, and fully sanitize our facilities every 24 hours. We are closely monitoring affected areas and reiterating our biosecurity policy to help minimize the potential to transport possibly contaminated surfaces. The staff at the onsite Wellness Centers at 19 of our facilities are trained on how to protect our associates from, and identify and respond to, symptoms of COVID-19. These professionals follow standard operating procedures as defined by the CDC for infectious diseases. The Wellness Centers are available to all associates and their families. We are taking every precaution to protect our associates, communities, customers and business partners, and ensure the continuity of our business.”

“We are working closely with government agencies who have deemed food production workers as essential personnel,” said Perdue president Jim Perdue.

Nationally, Perdue has had some of its plants shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, but not the one in Washington.

“I think we all realize it could hit the plant here,” said Sullender. “The health department is in contact with Perdue virtually 24-7 in an attempt to stay on top of it. The thing with this pandemic is that things seem to change very fast and minute by minute and we have to be ready to deal with whatever problem may surface quickly.”
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