Cases of Covid-19 at a US beef plant owned by Brazilian meat giant JBS have reportedly surged since the facility was reopened a week ago.

The world’s largest meat processor opened the doors again at its factory in Greeley, Colorado, last Friday (24 April) after being closed for around two weeks. Around the time JBS said it was going to shut down the site, state health officials were saying at least 40 of the firm’s employees had contracted the virus at the same facility, while two had unfortunately died.

Reuters is now reporting confirmed cases at the plant rose from 120 last Sunday to 245 on Wednesday evening, with a sixth Greeley worker now having died. 

The news agency was citing figures provided by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union obtained from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The increased incidence of Covid-19 at Greeley highlights the risk of reopening affected facilities too soon. Earlier this week, President Donald Trump ordered all US meat plants to stay open during the crisis to ensure supply to the consumer, a move welcomed by some but criticised by others. 

“The uptick in cases in a matter of days shows how serious this crisis is and the dangers that workers are facing every day just trying to do their jobs,” Kim Cordova, head of the local United Food and Commercial Workers International Union chapter, said in a news release obtained by Reuters.

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A response sent to the news agency from JBS, said the sixth member of staff who has now died had not been to work since 25 March.

Reuters added that JBS reopened the plant after multiple site visits and approval from health officials including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.