April 26, 2020 at 10:19 PM EDT
As Colorado’s stay-at-home order expires, a cheese plant shuts down over ‘high number’ of worker infections
By Steven Goff and Hannah Knowles
As Colorado’s stay-at-home order expired Sunday, a cheese plant in the state shut down over what it called a “high number” of coronavirus infections among its workers, according to the Denver Post. Large food-processing plants around the country have emerged as covid-19 hot spots and spurred concerns about employee safety.
Defending his decision to ease coronavirus-driven restrictions Sunday, Gov. Jared Polis — a Democrat among a largely conservative group of governors moving to swiftly reopen — acknowledged that cases again could surge. With businesses beginning to reopen in Colorado and other states, mostly in the South, officials say they are keeping a close eye out for concentrations of infections causing fresh problems.
One may have developed at Leprino Foods, a cheese plant in Fort Morgan, Colo., that says an unspecified number of employees, including some without symptoms, have tested positive for the virus, the Denver Post reported. The plant, which employs 350 workers, will remain closed for at least five days, the newspaper said.
Leprino Foods did not immediately respond to an inquiry Sunday, but a spokeswoman told the Denver Post the company is screening employees for symptoms, trying to keep sick workers home and requiring that all plant staff wear protective equipment and practice social distancing.
Two weeks ago, a beef production plant in Greeley, Colo., was temporarily closed amid an outbreak in which more than 100 employees tested positive and four died. A Smithfield pork operation in Sioux Falls, S.D., has become an especially large hot spot.
Colorado has reported 13,441 coronavirus cases and 679 deaths, the third-highest total fatalities west of the Mississippi, behind California and Washington state.
Statewide modeling, Polis said last week, showed that extending the stay-at-home order would delay a peak in demand on health care resources but would not have a notable effect on the total number of covid-19 patients.