NM meatpacking plant discusses safety measures after 5 employees test positive for coronavirus

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New Mexico Department of Health providing 'routine retesting' of employees at Sunland Park facility

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SUNLAND PARK, N.M. (Border Report) — A meatpacking plant where five workers tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month says the New Mexico Health Department has returned to provide “routine retesting” of its employees.

The department on May 5 said five workers at Stampede Meat Inc. in Sunland Park, N.M., had the coronavirus but that operations would continue at the facility with no additional requirements. Department techs were back at the facility last Thursday and Friday to administer additional tests to the remaining workers.

The company said it has been cooperating with the Health Department in availing all of its employees for testing, facilitating contact-tracing and requiring workers who may have had contact with the infected to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Stampede processes beef, chicken, turkey and pork as well as soup, prepared meals and alternative proteins at its facilities in Illinois and New Mexico. The Sunland Park plant opened in 2018 with the promise of 1,300 jobs for the Doña Ana County, N.M., and El Paso County, Texas region.

A slew of meat- and poultry-packing plants across the country have reported COVID-19 outbreaks, prompting concern from consumer groups about the safety of the workers and the integrity of the food. New Mexico health officials say they know of no cases nationwide in which sick workers have contaminated the food supply.

Statement by Stampede Meat Inc.

In a statement to KTSM-TV and Border Report, Stampede Meat Inc. said it adopted enhanced safety protocols consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and Occupational and Safety Hazards Administration (OSHA) recommendations since the pandemic arrived in the United States in early March.

The new policy includes 50 additional safeguards like sanitizing high-touch areas every 30 minutes and temperature-taking of everyone arriving on the premises. Each employee receives three-tiered facial protection that includes a mask, a plexiglass face shield and neck warmers pulled over the nose and mouth, the company said.

“At Stampede we recognize our responsibility to the public (and) are committed to the safety of our employees,” company President and CEO Brock Furlong said in the statement. “We continue to review best practices as outlined by CDC updated guidance, OSHA updated guidance, local and state government directives and any other credible resources to find additional measures that enhance our employees’ health and safety.”

He called the meatpackers “heroes who are in the front lines” of ensuring Americans’ food supply during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We realize this is an unusual and distressing time, however, the company remains committed to do all we can to keep our Stampede family safe while meeting our commitments to the nation,” Furlong said.

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