The coronavirus spread among JBS employees in March — just as confirmed cases in Colorado were climbing out of the hundreds and into the thousands. By the end of the month, nearly 200 employees and dependents had been checked out for confirmed or suspected COVID-19. The outbreak peaked on March 27.
Yet Weld County health officials and JBS leaders emailed only occasionally in March, and the virus was already entrenched by the time a serious, on-paper effort to protect workers ramped up in April with a flurry of emails, public health orders and a plant closure followed by new safety protocols, according to a Denver Post review of more than 500 pages of emails, letters, memos and other records obtained through the state’s open records law and from the plant’s union.
“Want you to know my colleagues are not reassured by what I’m sharing about measures being implemented,” Mark Wallace, then-director of the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment, wrote to JBS’s head of human resources in an April 7 email. “‘The cat’s out of the bag,’ is what all the health care providers are saying — too many sick people already, too much spread already.”
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