PUEBLO — The Mission Foods plant in Pueblo is dealing with another COVID-19 outbreak, making it the third outbreak the plant has dealt with.
This recent outbreak has at least nine new confirmed cases with the president of the local workers union, UFCW Local 7, who represents all 200 people employed by Mission Foods calling on the plant to close down for 10 days for deep cleaning and to make sure employees have access to testing.
“It is extremely concerning that a third outbreak is occurring at theMissionFoods plant in Pueblo. Our members—Mission’s employees— deserve better than a lackluster response to stop the spread of the virus throughout the plant. After nearly a year into this pandemic, no company can claim ignorance to the dangers coronavirus poses in production facilities. We imploreMissionFoods to close the plant down for 10 days to conduct a deep sanitation of the facility, ensure workers have access to COVID-19 testing, and give quarantine pay for all employees while the plant is closed.Mission’s workers deserve a safe workplace, and the Pueblo community in which the company operates deserves to be protected from any spread from the plant.”
The workers union stated the outbreak began in December with eight cases confirmed. The first outbreak the plant saw was back in June 2020 with six cases. Right now, Pueblo County is operating under Level Orange guidelines according to the state COVID-19 dial.
Mission Foods provided a statement to News5 responding to the outbreak.
"At our Pueblo facility, we have had rigorous protocols and policies in place for months to protect the health and safety of our employees. This has included weekly shutdowns for deep cleaning of all areas, which we’ve now done on eight separate occasions over the past two months. We have been in close contact with the Pueblo Department of Public Health, which visited the facility on December 2 and was satisfied with our prevention measures," Armando Garza, regional director of manufacturing for Mission Foods, said in the release.
The statement went on to say that the company encourages high-risk individuals to take a leave of absence and any employee who is diagnosed with COVID-19 is provided two weeks of paid leave to stay home until they are cleared to return. "We are also distributing a letter to every employee confirming their status as an essential worker, in order to assist them in receiving the vaccine at this early stage in Colorado,” Garza said.
In response to this third outbreak, State Senate President Leroy M. Garcia Jr., who represents Pueblo, said it is time to take action and temporarily close the plant to santize and protect essential workers.
“Until the vaccination process is completed, Mission Foods and employers around the state must remain vigilant; this is not the time to waver. In Colorado we have already witnessed the struggles and tragic outcomes that have occurred when employers refuse to act quickly to mitigate the deadly spread of coronavirus in the workplace," the statement said.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health's data dashboard, Pueblo County has a two-week incidence rate of 353.9 cases per 100,000 and a two-week positivity rate of 4.7%.
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