“If it closed down, it would be devastating for families in town,” said one JBS worker who chose to stay home from April 3 after he developed a cough. He tested positive Friday.
With 3,500 workers, the JBS beef processing plant is one of the largest employers in Grand Island, Nebraska. It’s also the epicenter of the town’s COVID-19 outbreak: employees make up 28 of the 105 people confirmed to have the virus.
This has created a dilemma for workers whose livelihoods depend on the meat plant that remains open as an essential part of the food supply chain and the local economy at a time when many people are self-isolating: do they risk exposing themselves to the virus at work, or stay home without pay?
“The people who are still working there are very afraid of catching the virus and passing it to our families at home, but we cannot stop going to work because we need to keep food on the table,” said one employee, who added she worked in the “intestine area” of the plant and did not wish to be named for fear of losing her job.