JBS meatpacking plant has top COVID-19 infection total in Colorado with 287 cases, 7 deaths

Posted at 2:31 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 17:15:42-04

DENVER — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released Wednesday updated COVID-19 outbreak data, revealing that the JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley and the Sterling Correctional Facility remains the state's two largest outbreaks of the virus by far, with 558 cases and eight deaths among the two facilities. Non-hospital and residential health care facilities across Colorado continue to be the worst affected by the virus, with the highest death toll among the centers on the list.

Food processing facilities

Testing has shown the JBS plant is Colorado's largest confirmed COVID-19 outbreak, with 287 positive cases, including seven deaths. That's an increase of 42 more cases and two deaths from last week's data.

The massive beef slaughterhouse was shuttered April 10 for two weeks for cleaning and testing after at least two deaths and several positive cases among workers. Employees, community groups, and the union all raised concerns about the decision to reopen the facility in the wake of the outbreak. However, the plant's 6,000 employees returned to work on April 24, with a large segment of workers untested.

Gov. Jared Polis said during a Wednesday press briefing that the state has performed over 1,000 tests on JBS employees and has worked with the company to be certain social distancing and mask-wearing protocols are being taken to protect untested workers, who might be asymptomatic and contagious.

COVID-19 is impacting other food processing plants in Colorado. Mountain States Rosen Company, a lamb processing plant in Weld County, Rocky Mountain Natural Meats in Adams County, and Cargill meatpacking facility in Fort Morgan have seen a combined total of at least 86 positive cases and one death, according to the CDPHE data. The number of cases remained the same from last week. However, this is the first death reported from those facilities.


The CDPHE data shows the state's second-largest outbreak is at the Sterling Correctional Facility, where 266 inmates and 12 staff members have tested positive for the virus. One inmate has died of COVID-19.

The state prison in Sterling has seen an increase of 22 new cases among inmates from last week. The facility has been on lockdown since April 14. Inmates must remain in their cells in quarantine, other than using restrooms and showers. Meals and medications are being delivered to inmates in their units.

The Denver City Detention Center or the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center has seen a massive outbreak of the virus, with 84 inmates testing positive. The Denver jail has the state's second-largest COVID-19 outbreak among detention centers.

Other prison facilities in Colorado showing a large number of positive cases appear to be centered in Weld County, where three jails have a combined total of 90 confirmed and probable cases including one death at the Weld County Jail.

Long-term care facilities

Long-term care facilities have seen the most significant impact from the virus. Around 40% of the state's COVID-19 deaths have come from nursing homes.

Of the nursing facilities on the CDPHE outbreak list, Cherry Creek Nursing Center, located at 14699 E Hampden Ave in Aurora, continues to show the highest number of fatalities, with 30 resident deaths confirmed to be or probably linked to COVID-19, an increase of seven from last week. Seventy-five residents and 49 staff members at the 218-bed facility have been infected, according to the CDPHE data.

Weld County is also the center of another large outbreak. At least 20 residents of Centennial Healthcare Center in Greeley have died from COVID-19, and 40 residents and 42 staff members have been infected (combining confirmed and probable cases).

In April, the CDPHE released an amendment to the public health order for long-term care facilities, which require them to submit COVID-19 prevention and response plans.

On Wednesday, the state said it has received plans from 96% of high-density nursing facilities, 83% of group homes and 100% of immediate care facilities. Polis said the state has issued citations to facilities that are not in compliance.

Key elements of the public health order include limiting visitors to these types of facilities, at-the-door symptom checks for all employees, and isolation plans for positive cases.