KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A meat processing plant in northeast Kansas will shut down operations on Wednesday afternoon after "a small number" of COVID-19 cases were confirmed earlier this week.
A spokesperson for the Johnsonville plant in Holton said that five employees were confirmed positive for COVID-19 on Monday.
The decision to close the sausage production plant was made as an "extra precaution to protect other members, their families and the larger Jackson County community," the company said in a news release.
Johnsonville is the largest employer in Jackson County, Kansas, which so far has reported four COVID-19 cases and no deaths.
The company said employees will continue to be paid during the shutdown.
"It’s a tough decision to halt production, but we appreciate Johnsonville for doing this to help us stop the spread of COVID19,” Angie Reith, Jackson County, Kansas public health administrator, said in the release from Johnsonville. “The Johnsonville team has implemented aggressive safety measures and did so early on to protect their workforce, and those efforts have helped immensely in identifying the virus in the facility as quickly as possible. We’ll continue our collaboration to minimize the spread of the virus."
During the closure, Johnsonville plans to implement additional safety measures, including barriers between workstations where social distancing is not possible; testing for all staff; and masks for employees to wear when in public.
Meatpacking plants have raised COVID-19 concerns in both Kansas and Missouri. Kansas has increased testing to several counties with large meatpacking plants, including Lyon, Finney, Ford and Seward counties.
Nationally, worker shortages and a surge of panic-buying have put more strain on meat providers.
Johnsonville said it "expects to keep up with demand" with its other sausage production facilities continuing to operate in the Midwest.