Leprino Foods shuts down Fort Morgan plant amid “high number” of coronavirus cases

Leprino Foods shut down its Fort Morgan cheese plant Sunday after a “high number” of employees tested positive for the novel coronavirus, including asymptomatic workers.

The cheese plant will remain closed for at least five days so that all plant employees can be tested and the facility can be cleaned, director of communications Kim DeVigil said in a statement Saturday.

About 350 people work at the cheese factory; DeVigil declined to say Sunday how many had tested positive for COVID-19, citing ongoing testing. Testing began April 19 and continued throughout the week, she said. Those employees who have not already been tested will do so on Sunday, DeVigil said, with the goal of testing all plant employees by Monday.

Employees who would be at work but for the shutdown will be paid, DeVigil said, and employees older than 65 will be paid but asked to stay home from work until further notice.

DeVigil said the company’s testing at the plant was proactive, based on “risk assessments” and the spread of coronavirus in the community. The testing was carried out on-site with help from the Northeast Colorado Health Department.

DeVigil said the plant is also checking employees’ temperatures when they arrive and screening employees for symptoms, as well as adjusting “attendance guidelines” to ensure sick workers stay home.

All plant workers are required to wear a nose and mouth covering at all times, she said in the statement, and practice social distancing while on the job. Sanitation at the plant has also been increased, she said.

The plant’s closure follows the nine-day closure of the JBS beef plant in Greeley, where several hundred workers are believed to have contracted COVID-19. That plant reopened Friday.

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