KGUN 9NewsCoronavirus


Unknown number of COVID-19 cases connected to JBS plant in Tolleson

Posted at 10:17 AM, May 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-16 13:17:06-04

More COVID-19 testing is coming to Tolleson for essential workers, including those at a meatpacking plant where workers have expressed concerns for weeks.

Tolleson Mayor Anna Tovar announced Friday that, in cooperation with district 19 legislators and the nonprofit Valle del Sol, drive-though testing for essential workers will take place next week, likely at the Tolleson Fire Department. Specific days and times are still being worked out.

For weeks, several concerned employees at the JBS Beef plant have expressed fear< /span> about the potential of getting sick, despite a long list of preventative measures JBS has put in place.

To this point, seemingly no one can answer how many JBS workers have fallen ill. Meatpacking plants have temporarily closed across the county and even become the focus of President Trump as hundreds of workers have gotten sick.

Also on Friday, ABC15 learned Governor Ducey's office will consult with the Arizona Department of Health Services to see about potentially making special accommodations for the JBS employees. Communications Director Patrick Ptak noted other testing opportunities for employees, like this weekend's 'testing blitz,' but said more resources might be possible.

ABC15 has learned some JBS employees work on Saturdays.

Ptak also confirmed two members of the Department of Health Services visited the JBS plant this week. According to Ptak, the facility is exceeding safety guidelines.

However, ABC15 has heard from concerned workers in Tolleson for weeks. A representative for the local workers union previously told ABC15 he was aware of "a lot" of cases there.

Tovar told ABC15 on Friday she did not know how many workers are sick.

"I'm about creating solutions and partnerships," she said. "Yes, we know there are cases there at JBS because employees have self-reported to the media. For me, I want to bring about solutions."

A spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Health Services told ABC15 the agency does not report data by facility.

A corporate representative for JBS USA has not provided any insight into the number of COVID-19 cases in Tolleson, but on Friday did confirm the company is partnering with the City of Tolleson to help provide testing for essential workers in the community, including those at JBS.

ABC15 asked why the company has not released the number of sick employees and received the following response from Cameron Bruett, head of corporate affairs for JBS USA.

"Given the evolving nature of this situation, we are not attempting to report the number of impacted team members. We are continuing to partner with the state and local health department and we communicate directly with our team members.

Maricopa County is experiencing an outbreak of coronavirus, with 6,821 cases and, tragically, 302 deaths. We are proud members of the city of Tolleson and Maricopa County, and we are doing everything we can within our plant to combat any potential spread of coronavirus.

We are taking aggressive measures in our facility to not only protect our workforce, but to aid our community in battling this common enemy. The virus did not start at JBS, nor in the county, but we all must face this threat together to stop the spread in our community.

We have encouraged our team members to participate in the Arizona Testing Blitz (COVID-19 Testing) that has been held at multiple sites in the area, including on Saturday, May 2; Saturday, May 9; and tomorrow, May 16. In addition, we are helping to procure tests with the city to provide testing to essential workers, including our JBS team members."