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Guntersville mayor says not much city can do to oversee coronavirus safety at meat processing plants

Since the virus hit, WAAY 31 has received dozens of emails about safety concerns and a lack of social distancing at several chicken plants in Marshall County.

Posted: Apr 27, 2020 6:52 PM
Updated: Apr 27, 2020 6:57 PM

With Marshall County the only coronavirus hot spot in North Alabama, doctors are examining just how much chicken processing plants are to blame.

Since the virus hit, WAAY 31 has received dozens of emails about safety concerns and a lack of social distancing at several chicken plants in Marshall County.

Pilgrim's Pride Meat Plant won’t confirm if there are any coronavirus cases connected to the Guntersville plant, but does admit cases at facilities it won’t name. Employees at the facility have complained they’re forced to work side by side and not enough’s being done to keep them safe.

Guntersville Mayor Leigh Dollar said the plants assure her they’re doing everything possible to keep workers safe.

"Based on my conversations with them they are doing as much as they can because employee safety is of upmost importance," Dollar said.

Dollar said she spoke with the managers at the meat processing plants in Guntersville. She said both told her they stepped up cleaning procedures.

"There's all kinds of sanitizing and cleaning going on all parts of the day," she said.

But, the mayor admits when it comes to overseeing the plants, there’s not much the city of Guntersville can do.

"Anything that is related to the city health order we don't have a local ordinance governing that, it would fall to that the state health order," she said.

Albertville Mayor Tracy Honea told me Tyson and Wayne Farm's management teams, the United States Department of Agricultire and the state health department are working to make sure employees are kept safe, but did not elaborate how.

In April, Wayne Farms said it would slow production at its plant in Albertville after 75 employees tested positive for coronavirus. One of them died.

Tyson also won’t confirm cases at any specific plant, but it’s reported more than 200 workers got sick in Iowa. WAAY 31 has heard of one possible case at the Alberville location. A spokeswoman for Tyson said its plants are promoting social distancing by allowing more time in between shifts to reduce worker's interaction, and placing tents outside to serve as outdoor break rooms

WAAY 31 also spoke with the Marshall County Sheriff's Office and the city of Albertville Police Chief. They said since these plants are privately owned there isn't much they could do either to oversee that these plants are following the guidelines.

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