Jennie-O Turkey Store will temporarily discontinue operations at its plant in Melrose, Minnesota.

As of April 27, 19 employees out of approximately 750 had tested positive for COVID-19. Health experts have told the company that as testing increases so will positive results.

The company announced its plans to suspend operations in Melrose, less than week after it announced it would temporarily cease operations at two plants in Willmar, Minnesota.

Based on the latest 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 its already thorough safety and sanitization protocols, the Hormel Foods subsidiary said in a press release. Under its pay program, all Jennie-O Turkey Store team members will continue to receive 100 percent of their base pay and benefits during the pause in production.

“Our No. 1 priority is the health, well-being and safety of our team members. That is why, out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to take a pause in operations at this location,” said Steve Lykken, president of Jennie-O Turkey Store. “We continue to be thoughtful and considerate during this process as we work with health and safety consultants who are experts in mitigation strategies for COVID-19. We have an incredible team of professionals who continue to focus on all the safety precautions that have been put in place in the past few weeks. Manufacturing facilities in many different industries are facing challenges with COVID-19. We continue to put safety first as we work through this global health issue.”

The company is currently working with local and state health leaders on testing for its team members, all in an effort to provide further safety assurances. Testing is an important next step as the company continues to implement proactive practices surrounding COVID-19. In addition, the company has worked with experts at the Mayo Clinic and other health institutions on awareness and education for all Jennie-O team members.

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“Jennie-O Turkey Store continues to take the proper precautions to put the safety of their team members first. They have employed leading practices to protect the company’s employees and the safety of their products and customers. I believe they are operating as best in class,” 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.

The efforts of these essential businesses like Jennie-O Turkey Store will serve as a model as more nonessential businesses open in the coming weeks and months, the company said.

“We will continue to work with these outside experts as we develop our plan for reopening when the time is appropriate. During this pause, we will continue our robust food processing sanitation practices, as well as the enhanced procedures that we have been using since the emergence of COVID-19. The facility 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.”

The company is strategically managing its operation protocols and supply chain to ensure business continuity, including the use of its other facilities to continue to serve its customers during this time.

View our continuing coverage of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.