WORTHINGTON — As of this week, the Worthington JBS plant is back to about 70% processing capacity, company and union representatives said.
On May 6, the first day the plant reopened, 125 workers showed up for first shift and 80 for second shift. On Thursday — just over two weeks later — first shift drew 658 workers and second shift 615.
Compared with other meat processing plants nationwide, "this is one of the fastest ramp-ups," said United Commercial and Food Workers Local 663 president Matt Utecht.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Worthington plant was processing between 21,000 and 22,000 hogs every day. Thursday's total came to about 14,700, or about two-thirds of the plant's previous production, Utecht shared.
"There will be a new normal over there," Utecht said. "I don't know how they're going to get back to 22,000 and keep the workers separated."
With the company's new social distancing measures in place, "things are going about as well as we could have hoped," Utecht said, adding that he has not heard of any new coronavirus cases within the plant since reopening.
"It's good for everyone," he noted. "It's good for the workers, it's good for Worthington, it's good for the farmers."