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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) says it’s calling on federal officials to investigate conditions at a central Minnesota meat packing plant where workers are reporting unsafe conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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In a statement Thursday, CAIR says it has asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to investigate Pilgrim’s Pride Poultry in Cold Spring. The Muslim advocacy group says workers are reporting they are being forced to take group breaks with hundreds of employees crowded in the same lunchroom and that there is no active cleaning or sanitation.

Additionally, CAIR says that plant employees reported that their fellow workers who’ve shown symptoms of COVID-19 are being forced to return to the job before completing the 14 days of isolation recommended by health officials.

Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR-MN, said in a statement that his organization is calling for federal and local authorities to investigate the plant to ensure worker safety.

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“Placing company profits over safety threatens the lives of employees, their families and the entire community,” he said.

The call for an investigation into Pilgrim’s Pride comes after other meat packing plants in Minnesota and across the Midwest have closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks. Last month, the JBS pork processing plant in Worthington closed after hundreds of workers tested positive for the disease.

Yet, the southwestern Minnesota plant partially reopened this week after President Donald Trump signed an executive order categorizing meat processing plants as critical infrastructure.

Cold Spring is located in Stearns County, which currently has the second-highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, with 975 as of Thursday. The only other Minnesota county with more is Hennepin, which has by far the highest tally of lab-confirmed cases, with nearly 3,000.

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