Perdue Farms closed its Milford processing plant March 30 after two employees tested positive for COVID-19.
Perdue spokeswoman Diana Souder said the two employees are in quarantine for 14 days and will still receive their pay with no attendance penalty. She said the plant will reopen Tuesday, March 31.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, COVID-19 is not known to be a food-borne pathogen, with very low risk of spread from food products that have been packed, stored and shipped over a period of days at refrigerated or frozen temperatures, as chicken typically is. However, chicken plants have a large number of employees who often work in close quarters.
After learning two employees had tested positive, Souder said Perdue notified the state’s Department of Health and Social Services, the facility’s wellness staff and director of operations and the onsite U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector. The affected employees were interviewed to determine their movements and who they may have come in contact with, and the interviews were cross-checked those by reviewing internal security footage. The plant was closed March 30 to conduct a top-to-bottom cleaning, and anyone who may have come in contact with the affected employees was notified of CDC guidelines regarding potential exposure, Souder said.
“Perdue continues to regulate strict preventive safety and sanitation standards in all our facilities,” Souder said. “All Perdue products continue to be USDA inspected and made with the highest standards of safety and quality.”
In addition, Perdue is continuing preventative measures implemented in early March to protect employees, including increased sanitation and cleaning and extended hours at onsite wellness centers, which are available to employees and their families free of charge. Souder said all of Perdue’s plants have begun implementing temperature checks at all facilities. Officials said an employee test at a Perdue facility in Perry, Ga., also tested positive.