Cargill beef plant in Schuyler reopens after two-week closure; more workers tested


By Erin Duffy, Omaha World-Herald (NE)

May 18, 2020


A Cargill beef plant in Schuyler reopened Monday after shutting down for two weeks so more workers could be tested for the coronavirus and more safety measures could be implemented inside the facility.


That means that all three meat processing plants in Nebraska that closed temporarily as the coronavirus sickened workers — the Tyson beef plant in Dakota City, the Tyson pork plant in Madison and the Cargill plant — are now back in business.


Cargill, which employs 2,200 people at the Schuyler plant, will gradually ramp up its work slaughtering cattle and slicing and packaging cuts of beef. The plant began to close on May 4 “out of an abundance of caution,” Cargill officials said, but continued paying employees for 36 hours of work each week. It is the largest employer in Schuyler, a city of about 7,500 people west of Fremont.


“We look forward to welcoming our employees back and are focused on their health and safety as we resume operations,” general manager Sammy Renteria said in a statement. “We know being an essential worker is challenging, and we thank our team for working so hard to deliver food for local families, access to markets for ranchers and products for our customers’ shelves.”


Economists have estimated that pork and beef processing capacity has been down as much as 40% over the past month or so after several large plants across the country temporarily closed amid coronavirus outbreaks. Some grocery stores, including Costco, Hy-Vee and Baker’s, began limiting how much meat customers could buy.


State officials said Monday that 2,601 meatpacking workers in Nebraska have tested positive for the coronavirus and eight have died. That means that meatpackers account for 25% of the state’s 10,625 confirmed cases as of Monday.


Meatpacking plants across the Midwest, many of which employ hundreds or thousands of people working in close quarters, have been struggling to contain outbreaks of the contagious virus.


Cargill and local health officials have not disclosed...