(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) At least 490 workers at Triumph Foods plant in St. Joseph have tested positive for the coronavirus, a state public health official said Friday — about 17 percent of the total plant employees.
The news came two weeks after the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported 412 Triumph employees had tested positive for COVID-19 out of the 2,367 workers tested at the plant site between April 27 - May 1.
The onsite testing was the result of Northwest Health Services, DHSS, and Triumph Foods sharing resources and staff to test employees who had not reported symptoms.
The updated total of 490 Triumph employees confirmed Friday to have the virus, included the mass testing operation, employees tested before, and employees tested after, said DHSS spokesperson Lisa Cox.
Not all of the positive cases are Buchanan County residents or Missouri residents.
Earlier Friday, St. Joseph Health Director Debra Bradley said at least 247 Triumph employees lived in Buchanan County. But at the time, the report Bradley had was out of 434 positive cases.
About 100 of the employees do not reside in Missouri, Cox said.
One of the positive employees, a Buchanan County resident, tested positive for the virus on April 22 and died two weeks later, according to the City of St. Joseph officials. He was in his 40s and according to a city press release and had underlying medical issues.
The president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local Two and vice president of the UFCW International Union, Martin Rosas, previously said the death was being investigated by the union’s legal team to determine whether Triumph Foods could be held legally responsible and to determine if more needs to be done to protect other employees at the plant.
Rosas has also said Triumph Foods has not done enough to protect its employees during the pandemic. He also criticized the President’s decision to protect the meat supply chain by executive order without extending as many protections to the plant employee.
Concerns about the health and safety of workers drove Maribel Toledo, the wife of a Triumph employee, to petition the Governor to shut the St. Joseph plant down for one week to clean and reset. By Friday evening, she had collected more than 3,000 signatures on the change.org page in two weeks.
Triumph Foods detailed added measures the company has taken to ensure worker safety on its website Thursday. The video statement said the company requires employees to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines, marked on the plant floors, walls, and doors in multiple languages. In addition to protective barriers at workstations, dividers have been installed in the cafeteria. When social distancing is not feasible, the company said employees are required to wear face shields.
KQ2 has made multiple attempts to reach Triumph Foods officials directly but they have yet to respond.