Jennie-O Turkey Store will temporarily pause operations at its Willmar Avenue and its Benson Avenue facilities, both located in Willmar, Minnesota.

Based on information about the community spread of COVID-19 in the area, the company decided it was the right decision to pause operations to undergo a facility-wide cleaning that will enhance already robust safety and sanitization protocols. Under its pay program, all Jennie-O Turkey Store employees will continue to receive 100 percent of their base pay and benefits during the pause in production.

 “The health, well-being and safety of our team members is our top priority. Out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to take a pause in operations,” Steve Lykken, president of Jennie-O Turkey Store, said in a press release. “We are being thoughtful and considerate in our approach to this process. I want to recognize our production professionals for continuing to do an outstanding job as they work to keep food on tables during this unprecedented time. I am very proud of them and I look forward to being back together as soon as we are able.”

During this pause, Lykken said, Jennie-0 will maintain its thorough food processing sanitation practices, as well as the enhanced procedures that the company has been employing since the emergence of COVID-19. The facilities will be deep cleaned, including all common areas and high- touch surfaces. Lykken added: “Lastly, we have implemented wellness screenings, provided masks and additional personal protective equipment and enhanced safety and sanitation protocols throughout our facilities. We are working closely with external partners as we also develop our plan for reopening when the time is appropriate. As a longstanding and respected Minnesota company, our goal is to always do the right thing.”

As of April 23, 14 employees out of more than 1,200 had tested positive for COVID-19. The company has encouraged its staff to get tested, now that additional tests are available. Health experts have told the company that as testing increases, so will positive results.

"Jennie-O Turkey Store is leading with best-in-industry practices including detailed employee wellness screenings, enhanced cleaning and disinfection, effective physical distancing and PPE usage, and active employee quarantining that exceeds current CDC guidelines. These measures are designed to protect the company's employees and the safety of their products and customers," said Dr. David Acheson M.D., founder and CEO of the Acheson Group who is trained in internal medicine and infectious diseases and previously a chief medical officer at the FDA.

According to the press release, Jennie-O Turkey Store has strategic operation protocols and plans to ensure business continuity, including the use of its other facilities to continue to serve its customers during this time.

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