Pilgrim’s Pride will consider setting up a COVID-19 testing site at the Lufkin plant in a meeting with local, state and public health officials today, according to a state official.
“This is a partnership that is working together and looking at how to facilitate testing for the plant in the near future,” Seth Christensen, the chief of media and communication for the state of Texas Department of Emergency Management, said.
The meeting is not open to the public but could result in onsite testing for Pilgrim’s employees.
Nikkie Richardson, a corporate communications officer for JBS USA and Pilgrim’s, confirmed that Pilgrim’s is meeting with these officials. She did not confirm the meeting’s subject matter but said the company would provide an update if any new decisions or plans are made.
Additionally, Pilgrim’s is searching for a COVID-19 Superintendent for the Lufkin plant.
“The purpose of this job is to have a dedicated resource available to ensure that we consistently execute on the safety interventions we have in place, and to look for improvements that will help our preventive measures and interventions evolve,” Richardson said. “This is in line with our belief that safety is a condition.”
The job posting on Indeed.com said the person hired for this position is responsible for directing and providing COVID-19 pandemic preparedness. They would oversee the development and implementation of a pandemic response practice and ensure the plant complies with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements.
Richardson said they expect to hire from within but that it is not a requirement for the job to already work for Pilgrim’s. They do require applicants to have:
■ Strong organizational skills
■ Excellent grammar and writing skills
■ Strong supervision skills
■ Proven ability to lead others
■ Communication and interpersonal skills to effectively manage and motivate employees and communicate objectives and action plans
■ Ability to research pertinent facts, data and other information from internal and external sources
■ Proficient use of computer and corresponding programs – Word, Excel, PowerPoint.
■ Ability to implement behavioral-based safety techniques to improve/maintain response plan performance
■ Ability to establish positive relationships with internal and external stakeholders
Richardson said that any other training needed to function in the role would be provided by the company to ensure the candidate is prepared.
The Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas Military Department, Texas Division of Emergency Management and Texas Medical Task Force partnered to host a second COVID-19 testing on Thursday at Lufkin’s Pitser Garrison Convention Center.
An emergency notification sent at 5 p.m. Thursday said the testing would be extended through Sunday.
Thursday’s testing looked similar to the test site on May 2 — a steady stream of vehicles passing through cones directed by around 20 National Guardsman, some in a white Tychem suit and face shields as they administered the nasal swab.
However, the number of appointments in the beginning of the day seemed to have increased. Capt. Travis Seale told The Lufkin Daily News that about a dozen people were tested by 9:45 a.m. at the May 2 site.
A witness present at the May 14 testing site told The Lufkin Daily News that 22 individuals had been tested in the first 15 minutes.
“We’re trying to test as many people as possible,” Seale said. “That’s really the goal.”
Seale would not comment on the number of people tested. He said the Texas Military Department is testing across the state, and as they’ve been testing, they have developed ways to better streamline the process to make it as painless as possible for the individuals being tested.
There was a procedure established by the state and the Department of Emergency Management that the Guardsmen were trained on, Seale said.
“Every person that’s here was trained in a specific aspect of this procedure,” Seale said. “They’re medics by trade, so they’re trained by the Army on how to be medics.”
Being involved in administering widespread testing to Texans has been a rewarding and humbling experience, he said.
“The whole purpose of us here is we’re Texans helping Texans,” Seale said. “It’s important to give the governor and state officials the information they need to make informed decisions on how to open the state. To see this all come to fruition and to understand the real purpose behind this is rewarding and humbling because we are helping reopen the economy or at least give them the information to make decisions on reopening the economy.”
Denman Avenue Baptist Church announced to its parishioners on Wednesday that church services would resume this Sunday with a “Back to the Future” themed graphic on Facebook after closing for several weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Gathering together for corporate worship is a core value to our church family,” pastor Jacob Fitzgerald said. “Our governor has stated that churches can meet and even provided recommendations for those meetings. We see those, along with the CDC recommendations, as minimum standards for our gathering. Therefore, we are implementing strategic, thorough and extensive measures to accommodate those who choose to gather on our campus.”
There will be two services. The 8:30 a.m. service is designated for those older than 65 or “at risk or immunocompromised.” The 10:30 a.m. service is designated for family worship.
They also released a video describing how the services would be conducted during the continued threat of COVID-19. The video said there will not be any preschool, nursery, children’s activities or adult Sunday school.
Fitzgerald said the church is limiting entry and exit points, adding extra on-site security, sanitizing in between services, not passing offering plates, offering overflow seating in the gym, sanitizing between services and more.
“We are taking into consideration people’s health and well-being as we devise a plan to begin regathering,” Fitzgerald said. “We also believe it is imperative that our people be provided the opportunity to begin deciding for themselves whether to worship on campus or continue to join us via our online opportunities.”
Church staff will be handing out kids worship bags with masks and activities. Hand sanitizer and masks will be available but not required.
Doors will be propped open and every other pew will be blocked off. Individual families will be allowed to sit together but will be required to distance from other families.
The video said the church is excited to see everyone and encouraged parents to have a conversation with their children about social distancing to prepare for the service.
Fitzgerald said he believes good has come out of this time of isolation and social distancing.
“While I don’t believe God caused COVID, I do believe God is using this time for His good,” he said. “The church has learned what many of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world know to be true about surrendering to Christ, which is — life can be hard, but God is always with us and His church isn’t bound by a building.
“We’ve learned the importance of a phone call, text message or card to connecting with one another. We’ve learned that simpler lives are possible. We’ve learned that generosity amid a pandemic is the way of blessing. We’ve been reminded that loving people and serving others is God’s call on our life. And we have learned that our faith in Christ brings unshakable peace amid a pandemic.”
There are 131 cases of COVID-19 in Angelina County as of Thursday evening, according to the Angelina County website.
The Texas Department of State Health Services website shows 46 cases in Polk County, 27 in Cherokee County, 11 in Trinity County and 22 in San Augustine County with one death. Nacogdoches County is reporting 220 cases of COVID-19 and 11 deaths, according to the city of Nacogdoches. There have been 158 cases in Shelby County.
The state website reports there are 43,851 cases statewide that have resulted in 1,216 deaths. The agency estimates 24,487 patients have recovered. There have been 623,284 tests administered statewide.
To contact the Angelina County & Cities Health District coronavirus call center, call 630-8500. The call center is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Those who are not in the ACCHD jurisdiction are asked to call the Department of State Health Service’s COVID-19 call center at (877) 570-9779.