GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4)- The number of coronavirus cases at the JBS meat processing plant in Greeley continues to grow with totals now reaching the mid-200s. The plant was shut down by the State of Colorado and Weld County earlier this month for nearly two weeks.
JBS reopened last week under strict health guidelines.
Now, an executive order from Pres. Donald Trump requires all such plants in the country to remain open to safeguard the food supply.
Gov. Jared Polis said during a news conference on Wednesday, "I will not let any executive order stand in the way of us protecting people in Colorado and managing the reliability of our food supply which is also an important economic engine of our state."
Polis said the president's order needs to be accompanied by a specific testing commitment. He suggested it would be better simply to remove workers who test positive rather than close the entire plant for long periods of time.
The union representing several thousand JBS employees denounced the president's action.
"This is not the Middle Ages and workers are not safe toiling at the whim of the management lords of the manor," said Kim Cordova, the United Food and Commercial Workers' Local 7 leader.
The union also claimed more people will become sick as a result of the president's order.
Cargill in Fort Morgan is another major Colorado meat processing plant. Its management told CBS4 it is examining the president's order at this time. It has had 56 cases of coronavirus reported and one death.
Colorado's Agriculture Commissioner Kate Greenberg made clear there is no food shortages in Colorado. She issued the following statement: "Colorado's food supply is strong. The pandemic has caused farmers, ranchers and processors to move food that once went to restaurants and food service to where it's needed most: grocery stores. The empty shelves we are seeing do not represent a food shortage, but are a result of the challenges of keeping inventory stocking in pace with increased sales. Similarly, the temporary closures or reduced operations at meat processing facilities are to address worker health and safety. We do not anticipate severe beef shortages or significant price increases. Colorado is a top beef cattle producer in the nation and currently has millions of pounds of meat in cold storage facilities."
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