Foster Farms, with the approval of the Merced County Department of Public Health (MCDPH), has reopened its poultry plant in Livingston, California.
The Livingston poultry plant was closed between September 1 and September 7, following an order from MCDPH to suspend operations until it was safe to reopen. According to MCDPH, as of August 27, eight employees at the plant have died of health complications related to COVID-19, and 358 employees have tested positive.
The Livingston poultry plant is the largest facility within the Livingston poultry complex, which the company says is now fully operational.
“We genuinely value our dedicated, hardworking employees. Since our founding in 1939, employee health and welfare has always been Foster Farms’ highest priority,” the company said in a statement.
Through Labor Day, Foster Farms conducted more than 4,800 COVID-19 tests of the Livingston complex workforce. Results of the recent testing indicate a COVID-19 prevalence of less than 1% positive, the company said. The employees that did test positive were advised to self-isolate and will receive all appropriate medical leave benefits.
“Nowhere else in California has a testing program of this magnitude been so quickly and successfully conducted. We extend our appreciation to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for their material assistance to help make the testing possible,” the company stated.
Over the coming weeks, Foster Farms will be conducting regular testing throughout the Livingston complex, aimed at monitoring and resolving COVID-19 prevalence to reduce the risk to our employees.
In addition to employee testing and deep cleaning, Foster Farms is implementing and will continue to follow the MCDPH order, including:
Providing employees with one-on-one COVID-19 training
- Adding a licensed healthcare professional to oversee our COVID-19 programs
- Committing to establish a joint COVID-19 Worker Health & Safety Committee, comprised of employee and company representatives
- Ongoing robust communications with our workers about testing and illnesses
- Continuing to increase social distancing measures
- Continuing to expand break area spaces
The recommendations of the MCDPH augment Foster Farms’ ongoing mitigation and communication programs, which follow CDC guidance and began in early March.
Dr. David Acheson, who held the position of chief medical officer with the USDA and FDA, and who advises Foster Farms on COVID-19 commented: “The intensive testing and implementation of additional worker safety recommendations undertaken by Foster Farms, in addition to the mitigations following CDC guidance that are already in place, are a robust effort to protect Livingston employees from COVID-19. Routine follow-up testing will help ensure that Foster Farms is vigilant in maintaining the low prevalence baseline and protect employees. Holding the line against COVID-19, and ultimately defeating it requires constant vigilance, and the cooperation of all.”
Coronavirus protections for employees
Foster Farms said it is closely following CDC COVID-19 guidance and has actively worked with federal, state and local public health authorities to effectively protect employees from the pandemic. Among these measures, Foster Farms:
- Requires employees to wear face coverings and supplies face masks to employees.
- Expanded the rigorous sanitation and personal hygiene measures that are the core of our Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Hazard and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans. As part of standard operating practices, plant sanitation is approved by the USDA daily.
- Implemented temperature-based Wellness Checks at each company facility - monitoring employees for symptoms of COVID-19 - to reduce the possibility of an infected individual entering our plants and offices.
- Installed dividers in break rooms and workspace areas where social distancing is otherwise not practical.
- Added more break area space at our facilities to permit greater social distancing with more tables, chairs and tents for additional seating.
- Added handwashing & sanitizer stations throughout our facilities, limited travel and implemented screening of all outside visitors.
- Implemented continuous cleaning of breakrooms and other common areas.
Foster Farms says it is actively providing its employees guidance, should they experience symptoms of COVID-19 or come into contact with someone who has confirmed positive for COVID-19.
That guidance includes:
- Any Foster Farms employee who is sick and showing symptoms of COVID-19 at home has been advised to self-isolate and seek medical attention.
- Any Foster Farms employee who develops symptoms of COVID-19 while at work will be sent home and advised to self-isolate and seek medical attention.
- In the case of a confirmed COVID-19 positive employee, Foster Farms will immediately advise those employees who have had close contact with the diagnosed individual.
- Employees age 65 and older or those with underlying health conditions have been advised that they may be at higher risk for COVID-19 and should consult with a medical professional when considering whether to remain at work or at home.
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