Eighty-one of the approximately 1,500 employees at Viracon’s facility in Owatonna, Minn., have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a recent report in a local newspaper. Though Apogee Enterprises, Viracon’s parent company, has issued a statement saying it believes the virus was not being transmitted at Viracon’s plant. The company has implemented health interviews, temperature screenings, increased workplace disinfecting and mandatory quarantines for anyone who has come in close contact with infected individuals.
Employees on quarantine have received an additional 80 hours of paid time off. Viracon will provide an unpaid leave of absence with paid medical benefits for any employee who is uncomfortable coming to work due to the situation.
Jeff Huebschen, spokesperson for Apogee Enterprises, tells USGNN™ that the company has decided not to disclose the number of employees who have tested positive at this time in order to protect the healthy privacy of Viracon’s workforce. The company operates 24/7 with multiple shifts. Huebschen says there are about 300 people in the facility at any given time.
According to the Star Tribune newspaper, the outbreak caused the plant to close down for cleaning two days last week. The newspaper also reports that, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, Viracon’s plant has the fourth largest outbreak among Minnesota manufacturers, behind three meat-processing facilities in the state.
Apogee’s statement about the situation is as follows:
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached the U.S., Apogee and our business locations, including Viracon, moved proactively to protect the health and safety of our workforce while keeping our business operational. We quickly implemented all CDC and OSHA guidelines to protect our workforce. We have also proactively communicated with our employees to make sure they understand our policies and how to keep each other safe.
In recent weeks there has been an increase in positive COVID-19 cases in the communities surrounding our Viracon factory in Owatonna and in our workforce which comes from those communities. We have contact-traced all employees with symptoms and based on employee interviews, we do not believe the virus is being transmitted at Viracon. The safety precautions we have implemented include health interviews, temperature screening, increased workplace disinfecting, and mandatory quarantines for anyone who has come in close contact with infected individuals. Our Owatonna facility is very large, approximately 2 million square feet, and employees are naturally spread out, which facilitates effective social distancing while at work.
Employees on quarantine receive an additional 80 hours of paid time off. For any employee who is uncomfortable coming to work, we provide an unpaid leave of absence with paid medical benefits.
We have worked proactively with local health officials and the public health agency in Steele County, which has reviewed and confirmed our COVID-19 precautions in Owatonna as comprehensive.