TAR HEEL, N.C. (WNCN) — “I just want someone I know can investigate, that way these people are taken care of and they’re being safe about it.”
A family member of a Smithfield Foods employee reached out to us with concerns that the company isn’t doing enough to protect employees from getting COVID-19.
This after the Bladen County Health Department confirms at least two employees at the Tar Heel plant have tested positive for the virus.
Several employees say they want more social distancing measures put in place, they want testing available to them, and they want personal protective gear including masks for every employee.
“They need to be safe and they need to make sure the plant and their workers are safe being there,” said the mother of an employee who wants to remain anonymous.
She says her son does not feel safe working there right now.
“When they go on break or anything like that they’re all in one area.”
He was allowed to go on family leave because of his concerns, but his mom says they’re worried about the other employees still working.
“That’s not safe for any of them because at this point if three people have tested positive, who knows who else is positive and just haven’t been tested or don’t have any symptoms.”
If more employees get sick, will this impact the food supply?
We took that question to Robert Handfield, a supply chain management professor at NC State University.
“If there are more they may have to shut it down, at least temporarily, and cleanse the plant and slow down work shifts,” Handfield said.
Retail demand at grocery stores is up 10 percent, Handfield said.
“There’s huge pressure on them to keep producing, given the escalated demand for pork products and other proteins.”
He does not think the plant will have to shut down temporarily.
He says either way, there will be enough meat to go around, but perhaps with limited options.
“We won’t have shortages, but we may have reduced numbers of options in terms of what cuts of meat you can buy.”
Smithfield Foods did not have anyone available for comment Monday.
For more information about Smithfield Foods, click here.
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