Roswell’s largest private employer has started testing its employees for COVID-19 symptoms prior to the start of work shifts.
Leprino Foods Co. began taking their employees’ temperatures Thursday, Communications Director Kim DeVigil confirmed.
“The latest (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines for critical infrastructure industries include temperature checks for workers at these facilities,” she said. “(Thursday) we began these checks as part of our ongoing efforts to keep our employees and our workplace healthy and safe, which is in addition to other rigorous protocols and cleaning procedures.”
The global food manufacturer of mozzarella cheese and dairy by-products has its corporate headquarters in Denver, Colorado, and a plant just southeast of the city limits on Omaha Road. That plant has 24-hour operations, seven days a week, and employs about 580 people.
The company had posted social media notices about temporary positions available for people to conduct the temperature screenings. DeVigil did not comment on that.
She did say that the plant has instituted several other procedures to guard against contagion. Those include sanitation of the facility; employee health questionnaires and self-monitoring; employee face and nose coverings; social distancing; and restricted access for visitors.
“As the CDC and public health authorities issue new guidance, (we) will continue to evaluate the need to update our procedures to help ensure the well-being of everyone in our facilities,” DeVigil said.
The CDC website has provided “interim guidance” for critical infrastructure employees and employers. Critical infrastructure employees are defined as law enforcement, so-called “fusion centers” for intelligence and law enforcement operations, 911 call operations, janitorial and custodial staff, hazardous waste responders, and employees and vendors in food-related industries, agriculture, energy, transportation, critical manufacturing sectors and government facilities.
The CDC guidance includes recommendations that employees wear face masks for at least 14 days if they have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. It also states that employers should test temperatures and screen for other symptoms, ideally prior to the start of work each shift.
The practices at local companies were found to vary.
USA Beef Packing, a beef and bison slaughtering and processing plant east of Roswell, is taking the temperatures of employees, said Food Safety Quality Assurance Officer Paul Barfield.
But he added that he isn’t sure if the non-contact thermometer used is highly accurate. He also said that he has tried repeatedly to get in touch with state officials to set up a remote COVID-19 test at the plant site for at least one day because employees cannot take off work to go to testing at New Mexico Department of Health offices.
“I think we need to be able to take those tests,” he said.
The owner of Fatman’s Beef Jerky, which operates in Hagerman and Roswell, said that the business is not required to do employee checks by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which inspects its operations and products daily.
“My government official is in my building every day,” said Rick Robey, “and he is advising me on the necessary protocols.”
Robey added that he would follow the USDA directives given to him now and in the future.
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at email@example.com.