'They don't care about the workers': Foster Farms employee at Livingston plant says he's scared to go back

LIVINGSTON, Calif. (KFSN) -- Foster Farms has been ordered to shut down operations at their Livingston facility after eight employees die from COVID-19 and more than 350 employees test positive.

The company declined to comment on the closure orders from the county, but Action News spoke with employees who say they were still told to come to work. That's likely because of a 48-hour stay on those orders to work out logistics for the closure.

"The money's what's important, the product's what's important. They don't care about the workers, they don't care about anyone else," said an employee who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of losing his job at Foster Farms.

"They say 'safety first' but that's not true," he added.

The employee said he had to speak out after he, his son, and his immune-compromised wife contracted COVID-19.

"It could've killed her," he said.

Still in quarantine, he said he's scared to go back.

Saying that the Foster Farms plant is the site of the most severe and longest-lasting COVID-19 outbreak in Merced County, the health department issued shutdown orders Thursday.

RELATED: Foster Farms plant in Merced County shut down amid uncontrolled COVID-19 outbreak, 8 deaths
It's a move that has state and federal support.

But a 48-hour stay is granting the company enough time to facilitate the logistics of closing.

On Friday, you could see a packed employee parking lot and trucks operating as usual.

Health officials say the true spread of the virus among employees is unknown.

"We get it, they're essential workers, but they're not expendable workers," says Livingston Mayor Gurpal Samra.

Samra says even though the workers may not live within city limits, he's been sounding the alarm to have their back.

He adds that the need to keep people from getting sick outweighs the economic ramifications the closure will have.

Foster farms denied our request for an interview but issued a statement that detailed their testing and safety protocols.

Merced County's health officer also was not available for comment on Friday.

In a statement they said after repeated attempts to contain the outbreak, this was the last possible option.

The health officer will need to sign off before the plant can reopen.
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