EAST UNION TOWNSHIP, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) We are learning more about the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on a Hazleton area company that voluntarily shutdown this week in response to the crisis. Union officials now say 164 of the nearly 900 workers at the Cargill Meat Packing Plant have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Cargill is one of the largest employers in the Hazleton area. It’s located in the Humboldt Industrial Park. Union officials tell Eyewitness News they are working with the company to make sure this plant is safe for employees and managers before it reopens.
Cargill Meat Solutions employs around 900 people. Many of them live in the Greater Hazleton area, a COVID-19 hot zone. Company officials closed the plant down on Tuesday in response to COVID-19 concerns.
Wendell Young, President of UFCW local 1776 tells us, “They did the right thing closing down to help prevent community spread.”
Young says the safety of everyone in the building is number one priority.
“Our goal is to make sure our workers are safe first and if that means slowing down production lines or re-engineering work, implementing protocols in the building whether it’s plexiglass, glass or other kinds of shielding material to make sure people are wearing the right kind of protective equipment,” he added.
Young says Cargill managers have been very proactive since the outbreak of COVID-19.
“Cargill was one of those companies that were spot on and worked very quickly with us to implement good protocols,” Young said.
All of this comes as a group known as the “COVID-19 Regional Code Enforcement Group” will inspect area businesses to ensure they are following CDC recommended COVID-19 guidelines.
“We’ve already inspected 50 businesses and we are in the field everyday to make sure that our corporate partners have the tools and resources. We empower them to make sure they are keeping their workers safe and as a result keeping the public safe,” siad Senator John Yudichak, of the 14th District.
No timetable has been given as to when Cargill will reopen. We reached out to the company for comment on this story. We have not yet heard back from them.. but they did give us a statement several days ago when they closed this plant.
“As we continue to prioritize the health and safety of Cargill employees, we have decided to temporarily close our Hazleton case-ready protein plant. This will allow us to minimize the impact of COVID-19 and continue to follow health department guidelines.”