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Coronavirus Outbreak: Some JBS Meat Packing Employees In Greeley Afraid To Go To Work

GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) - Hundreds of workers are staying home each day from their jobs at the JBS meat packing plant in Greeley, after reports of positive tests for coronavirus on some employees. The plant is massive -- more than 3,000 people work there. But this week, hundreds of JBS employees have been staying away, some workers told CBS4, out of fear.

CBS4 reporter Rick Sallinger spoke from a distance with Rafael Hernandez who said his father, who works there, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

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"His fever is 104 for three days, my mom said if nothing is changing we have to take him in," Hernandez said.

He said his father has been hospitalized since last Friday.

The union representing the employees says it is trying try to get personal protective equipment for the workers and protective barriers between those who work elbow-to-elbow.

Sallinger spoke by phone with Kim Cordova, the President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7.

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"Do you feel it is safe inside there?" he asked, and Cordova replied, "We have some confirmed positives so we are waiting to get more information."

She explained the union leaders are not allowed to enter the plant under the current stay-at-home restrictions. She added her information from workers inside indicates not everyone's temperatures are being taken. She said a doctor's note is required in order for workers to qualify for time off.

JBS, through a spokesman, said temperatures are being taken on those who enter. Because they do beef processing, the plant is kept clean, but they have hired 15 people just for cleaning now.

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Some workers told CBS4 they can't wear protective gloves or masks in the close conditions. The union is trying to get plastic barriers put up between the workers.

Hernandez is concerned also for his sister who works there who has become ill.

"This plant continues to operate. There are hundreds of people still there getting sick affecting others," he complained.

The company insists a lot of workers are choosing to stay at home because they have children who can't go to school. The union says 900 stayed away Wednesday of this week.

JBS spokesman Cameron Bruett told CBS4 the plant is open because it involves food and is considered an "essential business." He said, "It's for the good of the nation."

The Weld County Health Department told CBS4 it has has not received any confirmed from inside and cannot comment on the safety of those still working inside.

RELATED: Latest Updates On The Coronavirus Outbreak In Colorado

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