Spike in coronavirus cases at Minnesota meatpacking plant prompts employees to demand shutdown

Plant employees are pushing for a temporary shutdown

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Workers at a Pilgrim's Pride poultry processing plant in Cold Spring, Minnesota, rallied to demand the plant shut down for two weeks after health officials confirmed that 154 workers had tested positive for coronavirus.

About 75 vehicles honked their horns in a drive-by protest on Monday, the Star Tribune reported. Meat processing giant JBS USA is majority shareholder in Pilgrim's Pride.

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"We're hoping the company will sanitize the whole facility so that the workers can safely return to work. ... They knew this was happening and they just kept ignoring it," Pablo Tapia, one of the rally's organizers, told the Star Tribune.

Pilgrim's Pride is taking measures including checking each worker's temperature, providing face coverings and staggering starts and breaks.

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"We know some people are scared and anxious, and we are doing everything we can to keep this virus out of our facility," the company said in a statement to FOX Business.

The Cold Spring plant is located in Stearns County, which now has the second-most cases of any county in Minnesota at 1,512. Hennepin County, where Minneapolis is located, has 4,033.

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COVID-19 has infected workers at 115 meat and poultry processing facilities in 19 states, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the roughly 130,000 employees at the plants, more than 4,900 workers contracted the virus, and at least 20 have died.

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Worker absenteeism and plant closures have caused the meat industry to warn of possible shortages as supermarkets limited customers' meat purchases to prevent panic buying.

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The story has been updated to reflect that the Minnesota Department of Health revised its count of confirmed coronavirus cases at Pilgrim's Pride Cold Spring from 194 to 154 after a data glitch.