Pork plant hiring despite COVID-19 outbreak

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RANTOUL, Ill. (WCIA) — An area pork plant is now hiring after it had nearly 90 coronavirus cases since last month. The medical director overseeing testing at Rantoul Foods says they’re ready for the new recruits.

SafeWorks has helped Rantoul Foods make changes to protect its employees, and because of that, they’re looking to hire. After 88 confirmed cases of COVID-19, those changes have been drastic. Everyone is being checked for symptoms when they come to work. They are all required to wear masks.

“Sanitation crews sanitize the plant. Certainly under scrutiny you try to do extra steps to protect your employees,” said SafeWorks Medical Director Dr. David Fletcher is overseeing the testing of employees.

He says 58 of the 88 confirmed cases have been cleared and are returning to work, but 28 of them have decided not to come back. With production still underway at the plant, they have to make up the difference but do so cautiously.

“All employees that do get hired at Rantoul Foods are gonna have to have a negative COVID-19 test before starting to work. They’re gonna have to follow the guidelines as far as wearing a mask at all times. There’s some staggering as far as breaks and lunches,” explained Fletcher.

Around 95 percent of the employees who tested positive didn’t have symptoms.

“That’s the biggest concern out there is those asymptomatics are the ones that can spread it to other people because they don’t feel sick, and so that was the hard part was all these employees we had to spend a lot of educational time explaining to them you know, you have to do the 10-day quarantine if you have a fever. In some cases, we do require some followup tests.”

Only one of those positive cases is still in isolation. 65 percent of Rantoul Foods’ 700 employees have been tested. They plan to eventually test all of them.

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