VERNON (CBSLA) – Coronavirus outbreaks have struck nine industrial facilities in Vernon, authorities announced Sunday.
The L.A. County Public Health Department reported it was investigating the nine facilities, with the largest outbreak occurring at the Smithfield Foods-owned Farmer John meatpacking plant in Vernon.
The county said 153 of the 1,837 employees at the plant have tested positive for COVID-19 since March. Of those 153, 41 have since returned to work.
The Farmer John plant is known for making the famous Dodger Dogs which are served at L.A. Dodgers games.
The union that represents workers at Farmer John called Monday for the immediate shutdown of the facility, calling safety measures to control the coronavirus “insufficient.”
“Smithfield has not provided full information about what is really going on inside the Vernon plant,” said John Grant, president of UFCW Local 770. “Without information we cannot make an informed decision about workers’ health and safety.”
The other eight facilities have had between 5 and 24 cases, according to the latest county numbers. They are:
- Clw Foods
- Via De France Yamazaki Inc.
- Cal Farms Meat Company
- Takaokaya USA Inc.
- F. Gavina & Sons Inc.
- Golden West Trading
- Overhill Farms
- Rose and Shore
Five of the nine are meat processing plants. Officials are unsure if the spike in cases is due to increased testing or the spread of the disease among workers.
The city of Vernon is primarily an industrial area and has very few residents. However, health officials are afraid that infected workers could cause outbreaks in nearby communities where they live.
“We are closely monitoring outbreaks within facilities in the City of Vernon, as many of the employees reside in adjacent Southeast Los Angeles communities,” L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said in a statement Sunday.
The city of Vernon told CBSLA that all the affected facilities were deep-cleaned and have been reopened.
Several meat processing plants nationwide have closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks among workers. On April 29, President Donald Trump signed an executive order requiring all meat processing plants to stay open, or to reopen if they had already closed. However, some plants have been unable to follow the order because they do not have enough employees to do so, either because the workers have already been infected with COVID-19, or they are afraid of coming to work and getting sick.