Grand Island Agricultural Equipment Facility Closes As Local Cases Mount

April 7, 2020 - 5:15pm

Agricultural equipment company Case IH will pause production at its Grand Island factory amid a spike in local COVID-19 cases. As of Tuesday afternoon, there are 58 cases of COVID-19 in Hall county.


General Manager Mike Schaefter said the facility initially intended to stay open with extra safety measures like deeper cleanings and social distance between employees.

Some employees were even tested for COVID-19 at the factory’s in-house clinic by a company doctor.

"We serve the farming community to ensure food supply," Schaefter said at a live-streamed press conference Tuesday afternoon. "We have continued to operate in recent weeks to ensure we keep up with their needs for agricultural equipment."
 
Along with aerospace, metal, and railcar construction, agricultural manufacturing demands are considered critical by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and are asked by the federal government to stay open if possible.

Grand Island Mayor Roger Steele praised Case IH’s choice to close, but cautioned that shutdowns come at a price for the economy and America's food systems.

“Grand Island is unique in that we have several manufacturers who are considered critical infrastructure," he said. "I also appreciate the thoughtfulness of CNH in closing for a while to reevaluate where they should go in the future, given the progress of COVID-19 in our community."

Meanwhile, outbreaks are emerging at other employers deemed critical infrastructure. Ten workers at a nearby JBS beef plant have tested positive for COVID-19, but the facility remains open. Another JBS facility in Pennsylvania recently closed after employees started getting sick.

The Case IH facility's hundreds of employees will cease work after Thursday. Case IH says the company will evaluate a possible reopening in two weeks.

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