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JBS meatpacking plant workers get COVID-19 vaccine shots

March 5, 2021 GMT

GREELEY, Colo. (AP) — A Colorado meatpacking plant that saw a deadly coronavirus outbreak last year suspended operations Friday so that workers could receive COVID-19 vaccines on-site.

Workers at the JBS USA-owned plant received their shots in a temporary clinic set up in a hallway, The Greeley Tribune reported. More employees will be vaccinated Saturday in a partnership with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, the union representing about 3,000 workers at the plant.

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The union said it expected as many as 350 people per hour to get shots. Doctors and nurses were on hand to monitor vaccine recipients for any adverse reactions.

“Not bad at all,” Rudy Maldonado, an IT manager, said of his vaccination. “Super.”

Six employees and a corporate supervisor at the plant died and 291 workers tested positive for the virus during an outbreak last year, according to the state Department of Public Health and Environment. JBS suspended operations In April to deep-clean the plant, install a new ventilation system and physical barriers on production lines and enhance social distancing protocols.

JBS also said that the employees’ coronavirus infections were not work-related — a claim disputed by the union.

In September, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined the company more than $15,000 for failing to adequately protect its employees from the coronavirus. JBS objected to the fine and said OSHA was trying “to impose a standard that did not exist in March as we fought the pandemic with no guidance.”

During the Friday and Saturday closure, JBS is providing workers a $100 bonus and four hours’ pay for getting their vaccine shots.

JBS USA is a subsidiary of Brazil-based JBS S.A., one of the world’s largest meat processors. It also holds a majority interest in Pilgrim’s Pride, the United States’ second largest poultry company.

Vaccinations also were underway Friday and Saturday for workers at a Cargill meatpacking plant in Fort Morgan. Gov. Jared Polis visited both plants Friday as his administration expands vaccinations to frontline workers that include those in the meatpacking industry.