Wampler's workers test positive

Wampler’s Sausage in Lenoir City remains operational but have had two employees test positive for COVID-19.

Two employees at Wampler’s Sausage in Lenoir City tested positive for the coronavirus and have been placed in quarantine.

Ted Wampler Jr., Wampler’s president and chief executive officer, announced the first positive case Thursday. A second positive case was confirmed Monday morning. Both workers appear to have been asymptomatic.

Loudon County Health Department officials were present Friday to provide testing for all employees and contractors.

“We wanted to make sure the virus had not spread among our employees, so we asked the Loudon County Health Department to come out and test everyone, and they did a wonderful job,” Wampler said. “We are doing everything we can to allow and empower our people to follow (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines while at our facility. We are also encouraging our employees to take personal responsibility further and follow the guidelines while away from work as well.”

The employees will not return to work until fully cleared. Wampler’s will allow any high-risk employee to remain at home for now.

“We are very proud of our team for following proper rules at work,” Wampler said. “Most of them have also done this at home, and we encourage everyone to do this. Our thoughts and prayers are with our two employees who tested positive and also with all people affected by the virus.”

The company is taking preventative measures to keep employees and consumers safe. Wampler emphasized the virus is not spread through food products.

“We’re facing all the challenges head on just like everyone else, and we’re doing everything we can about it,” he said. “We’ve redirected traffic flow through the break rooms, spaced break times out, we’re sanitizing offices, break rooms, handles, things like that throughout the day. In our actual production, we’ve not changed anything, and there’s no need because we were doing everything that someone would do in a food processing plant that would kill any kind of bug, bacteria, virus, whatever — we’ve been doing that for years. There’s nothing that we can really add because we’re already there.”

Employees at the Kimberly-Clark Corporation plant in Loudon have been fortunate to continue working while adhering to federal and state health guidelines.

“Throughout this pandemic, Kimberly-Clark has been operating as an essential business, so the health and safety of our people has remained our top priority,” Peter Kersten, KCC local manager, said in a press release. “We have taken extra steps to keep our people and their families safe and healthy — at Loudon and around the world. These measures include enhanced safety measures for our office, mill and distribution center operations, which were developed in line with guidance from local and global health authorities.”

Wampler’s Sausage is considered an essential business in the food industry. In fact, business has been steady over the last six weeks.

“We’re pretty much a key element in the food chain. We’re one of the backbone companies of the food chain,” Wampler said. “The consumers, of course, are looking for safe, wholesome and high quality food. At the same time, farmers are desperately needing harvesting companies to be operating, so it’s very important that we do what we do, remain open and do everything we can about it. That’s what our team here is doing. Our people are an essential part of the economy, and they’re answering the call and doing everything they can.”

Several harvesting companies in East Tennessee have either shut down or severely cut back on operations.

“It’s a very serious thing, and the call I got today is an operation is going out of business,” Wampler said. “As a harvester, it’s really important that we’re continuing to support the American farmers and keep bringing animals in and processing them to make good, clean, wholesome food. That’s our calling, that’s our mission right now to do the right thing and to keep working.”

Kimberly-Clark has taken numerous precautions to ensure the safety of employees. Guests have been temporarily denied access to the plant.

“Some of the enhanced safety measures include encouraging employees to stay home when they feel unwell, regular cleaning of work areas, shift rotations, distancing reminders where people gather, temperature scans at entry points and where applicable and enhancing paid leave policies,” Kersten said. “By prioritizing the health and safety of our employees, we can keep working to provide the essential products the world is counting on to ensure hygiene and health.”

Despite the numerous negative impacts the pandemic has caused, employers remain optimistic about returning to “more normal” operations soon.

“Our employees are great. We’ve had no layoffs and, as a matter of fact, we need more people to come and help,” Wampler said. “Our people have really responded quite well. As a matter of fact, we have broke records this week as far as our production output. Two days last week, we did two all-time records. If that tells you anything about the response of our people, there you go.”

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