Concerns about COVID-19 exposure at Butterball facility


HUNTSVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Concerns about exposure after a contracted employee at the Butterball facility in Huntsville tests positive for COVID-19. A worker at the plant tells us not enough is being done to protect others who may have been in close contact with the individual.

That individual is at home in self-quarantine for 14 days with pay. That’s according to the company, the spokesperson and has not been on site since May 12.

“Monday and Tuesday, he obviously had it and they didn’t find out until Tuesday so he worked Monday and Tuesday and was around the plant while he had it,” said a worker at the facility, who does not want to be identified. John Doe reached out to us saying he is worried other people were exposed to the virus.

Initially, on Thursday, May 14, we were told four workers who were in close contact with the individual were told to isolate.  The spokesperson said Friday there was a miscommunication and updated that number to three but John Doe said it should be more.

“He works really close with like 12 guys and they all take breaks together which means they all take their masks off to eat lunch and all of those guys are still working and putting everybody at risk.”

More than 800 people work at the facility.

Butterball released this statement saying it followed protocol.

“anyone who is identified as having been in prolonged close contact—closer than six feet for longer than ten minutes in the 48 hours before the onset of symptoms—is asked to self-isolate at home for 14 days. This exceeds the recommendations by the CDC for food processors and is done in an abundance of caution to protect those who are still at work. We are working closely with both the individual’s employer and the Arkansas Department of Health on this matter.”

John Doe said although he is concerned about being exposed he is forced to still go to work because of a point system for attendance. 

“If you miss a day you get a point, a doctor’s note doesn’t even take your points away, so if you miss 5 days total in a two month period you lose your job. If people feel like they want to quarantine they can’t.”

The Butterball spokesperson states that employees are welcomed to use their vacation time if they need to take time off and adjustments to an individual’s work plan can be made if needed.

We have a very specific policy that any employee told to stay home due to COVID-19 will be paid and not incur attendance points, whether because they are awaiting test results, have tested positive, have been asked by a health professional to self-isolate due to being in close contact with someone that has tested positive, or were flagged during internal screening measures. If an employee has vacation time, they are welcome to use that time as needed. Without vacation time, we are asking anyone who has concerns about coming to work talk to their supervisor or human resources representative about their individual workplan.

Employees who have COVID-19 questions or concerns are advised to speak with their supervisor or human resources representative.

They can also call Butterball’s team member care line at 919-255-7610.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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