WILLMAR, Minn. — Jennie-O Turkey Store has reopened its Benson Avenue facility in Willmar, it announced Thursday, May 7.

The company had voluntarily ceased operations at the facility late last month due to the impact of COVID-19 in the area. The company restarted operations Thursday with a core group of team members and plans to ramp up production over the next few days, according to an announcement by the company.

The company is working on plans to reopen the Willmar Avenue plant, as well as a facility in Melrose, Minn.

The company also confirmed Thursday in a news release that "team members had tested "positive for COVID-19 at West Central Turkeys" in Pelican Rapids. The company did not say whether the Pelican Rapids plant will temporarily cease production, like the company did at its Melrose and two Willmar plants in April.

Steve Lykken, president of Jennie-O Turkey Store stated: "We remain committed to our industry-leading efforts to maintain and enhance safety protections for our team members and this community. We are glad to be reopening this facility and are working on our plans for reopening our other facilities including another location in Willmar and in Melrose."

The company president said Jennie-O Turkey Store continues to put the safety of staff first.

"Now that we have reopened our Benson Avenue plant, our team is turning its attention and efforts to our new awareness initiative called Keep Covid Out! This campaign reinforces the preventative measures throughout our facility and the efforts of our team members to keep COVID-19 outside of our building and out of our communities. COVID-19 affects all of us and we must work together to stop its spread, both at the workplace and outside of work.

"As a leading employer in the area, and one with our core priority on the health and safety of our employees, we are certainly eager to get back to doing what we love and that's making great food."

The reopening takes place as Jennie-O Turkey Store employees are being tested for COVID-19 at the Carris Health Clinic in Willmar.

Jennie-O Turkey Store is comprised of 12 lay farms, three hatcheries, more than 100 commercial growing farms, eight feed mills and seven processing plants across Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to an online company profile, and employs more than 7,000 in total. Two processing plants are located in Willmar. Others are in Faribault, Melrose, Montevideo and Pelican Rapids in Minnesota and one in Barron, Wisconsin.

Jennie-O Turkey Store is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hormel Foods Corporation, based in Austin, Minn.