Mountaire takes precautions after worker tests positive for COVID-19

Delaware State News file photo

SELBYVILLE — Stepped-up sanitation is in place and a special sick leave program is in the offing at Mountaire Farms following confirmation earlier this week that one of its Selbyville processing plant employees tested positive for COVID-19.

The poultry company, in a March 31 release, announced that the individual has not been at work at the facility since Wednesday, March 18. This employee was recovering at a local hospital and was expected to be released this week.

According to Delaware Health Department guidelines, 15 employees who may have worked closely with the employee were sent home Tuesday, March 31. None of them have shown any signs of illness, and their temperatures were normal. They were to remain out of the facility for one day until the Health Department recommended 14-day quarantine period is over.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with this employee and their family, and we are grateful that this individual is recovering,” said Phillip Plylar, president of Mountaire Farms. “Our teams have been ready for this and we don’t expect this to interrupt our operations. We’ve enacted our COVID-19 Action Plan and are taking all necessary precautions to protect our workforce. Our facilities are disinfected every night and we are redoubling our efforts to thoroughly clean and disinfect our common areas and cafeterias to protect our workforce.”

The Selbyville plant worker continues to receive pay while recovering.

According to Mountaire Farms spokeswoman Catherine Bassett, even before this case occurred Mountaire had announced a new special hourly sick pay program for its employees.

“We want to encourage them to stay home if they’re sick. So, employees now have the option of five sick days without a doctor’s note between April 1 and May 30, paid at 60 percent of their hourly rate. If they don’t get sick, which we certainly hope is the case, then we will pay out those funds as a bonus in June,” said Ms. Bassett. “We’re hoping this helps ease some of their concerns as they help us keep our plants open and feeding people.”

Mountaire employees are being reminded to take all necessary precautions, including frequently washing hands, using hand sanitizer to avoid the spread of germs, and staying home if they’re sick.

As a critical part of the nation’s food supply, the poultry industry has risen to the challenge to continue to produce chicken during the coronavirus crisis. It’s simply not an option for the food industry to shut down, said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse.

“It is extremely important that the entire vertically integrated chain of poultry production remain functioning at full capacity and that everyone in that chain is doing their part to assure chicken is available for purchase,” Secretary Scuse said in a statement on March 18. “Workers are commended for what they do to feed our citizens and are encouraged to give extraordinary effort in these challenging times. We have the most abundant, affordable and safest food supply in the world, due to the invaluable contributions of everyone involved in food production. Their participation in feeding Delaware and America is essential.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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