Nearly 1,000 Foster Farms employees in Merced County receive COVID-19 vaccine

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Worried workers have been asking for months when the vaccine would be available, so this day brought relief.

Foster Farms says 370 workers at its Livingston plant have tested positive for COVID since September, while nine employees lost their lives.

"It's absolutely heartbreaking the devastation to families COVID-19 has had," says Assemblymember Adam Gray.

Half the Foster Farms workforce in Merced County was able to get their first shot of the Pfizer vaccine.

"I've been talking to a couple people as they've gone through it," says Ira Brill. "They're very appreciative. They generally like working for the company. They realize what we have done."

The outbreak led to a lawsuit by United Farm Workers to improve safety at the facility.

Foster Farms provided video and says it continues to follow CDC guidance, so employees must wear masks and have their temperature taken before they start their shift.

"We've also added addition spacing for employees to eat," says Plant Superintendent Cesar Arias. "We also have different barriers that we installed in the plant."

Securing a larger vaccine supply for the North Valley has been difficult, according to Assemblymember Gray.

"Here in Merced County, we've, over the past month or two, had the third lowest per capita vaccine allocation in the state while we've had the 5th or 6th highest rate of fatality from COVID," he said.

Save Mart Pharmacy handled the vaccinations for Foster Farms, which is one of the Valley's largest private sector employers.

Last month, Foster Farms also provided vaccinations for about 1,000 employees of its chicken processing plant on Cherry Avenue.
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