ST. JOSEPH, MO (KCTV) -- America's food supply is in trouble and meatpackers in Missouri and Kansas have had to shut down or scale back production because of COVID-19 outbreaks.
Earlier this week President Donald Trump invoked a rule to keep them operating, but some have raised concerns about worker safety. The Smithfield pork processing plant in Milan, Missouri is even being sued by a worker rights group claiming unsafe employee environments.
Meanwhile, other companies are testing workers while trying to keep up production.
Food processors like Triumph are trying to keep the supply chain moving right now. A local health provider there has been testing employees all week, hoping to become a model for other plants across the country.
Early this week, we showed you a line of hundreds of employees waiting to be screened and tested for COVID-19 by Northwest Health. Today, the line is much smaller.
Rodney Hummer with Northwest Health said there are only a handful of workers left to test.
“We got way more done faster than we expected,” he said.
The state released results from more than 700 employees tested so far, showing 92 cases at the plant.
Hummer said identifying those workers early can help prevent the spread in the close quarters of a processing plant.
“We wanted to get in front of the wave instead of behind the wave,” Hummer said.
Other processing plants have faced shutdowns over coronavirus outbreaks.
Chris Chinn is the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
“A lot of meat processors are having a challenge as their workforce is down,” Chinn said.
In some states, it has led to hundreds of animals being euthanized. Chinn said it hasn't happened in Missouri yet, but nationwide animal production is down nearly a million head per week from this time last year.
“It's a challenging time in agriculture,” Chinn said. “It really makes you look at your operation and see what you can do to avoid future challenges.”
Hummer believes test sites like the one mentioned can help protect workers and the food supply.
“A plant this size can stay in operation, still doing what they do and keep the supply chain open but test their workers simultaneously,” Hummer said.
Northwest Health will wrap up testing tomorrow morning.
The state should be releasing more results from the plant in the next few days.