EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Four additional meat-packing plant employees have tested positive for COVID-19 in Dona Ana County, the New Mexico Department of Health said.
The department began conducting tests on Monday at the Stampede Meat Inc. 5700 McNutt Road, in Sunland Park, New Mexico, after an employee came down with the coronavirus last week. The employee did not require hospitalization.
“We have been on the site testing the last two days and have tested almost all of the employees,” said Health Department spokesman Morgan. He said the plant continues to operate and that all employees wear personal protective equipment daily.
“There have been no additional requirements from the Department of Health,” he said, adding there have been no reports anywhere in the United States of COVID-19 being transmitted by food or food packaging.
The 142,000 square-foot plant opened in December 2018 and processes 100 million pounds of meat a year, according to the company website.
Border Report and KTSM sought comment from the plant but did not get an immediate response. On its website, the company states that “safety within all aspects of the business is a top priority for Stampede. For their customers, employees, and products some form of safety measure and compliance is set in place.”
In a report issued May 1, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 4,913 COVID-19 cases and 20 deaths have been recorded at 115 meat and poultry processing facilities in 19 states.
The agency says factors like difficulty in maintaining hygiene, physical distancing as well as crowded living or transportation arrangements were potential risk factors in those cases.
“Among workers, socioeconomic challenges might contribute to working while feeling ill, particularly if there are management practices such as bonuses that incentivize attendance,” the CDC report said. “Methods to decrease transmission within the facility include worker symptom screening programs, policies to discourage working while experiencing symptoms compatible with COVID-19, and social distancing by workers.”
President Trump last month designated the meat and poultry processing industry as an essential component of the U.S. food infrastructure and invoked the Defense Production Act to keep it open. The industry employs half a million workers nationwide, according to the CDC.