Palermo’s temporarily closes Milwaukee pizza plant after five employees test positive for COVID-19

Palermo's Pizza.
Palermo's Pizza plant and headquarters in Milwaukee.

Last updated on May 4th, 2020 at 01:02 pm

After five employees at the Palermo’s pizza plant in Milwaukee tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus, Palermo Villa Inc. president and chief executive officer Giacomo Fallucca announced Friday that the company is closing the plant temporarily.

Giacomo Fallucca
Giacomo Fallucca, Palermo Villa president and chief executive officer

“We have received notice from the City of Milwaukee Health Department that because we have had five employees test positive for the COVID-19 virus, we must close for at least 48 hours to implement additional mitigation steps in consultation with City of Milwaukee Health Department staff,” Fallucca said in a news release. “We will comply with the order and add to the already stringent sanitation program we already have in place.”

Fallucca said the company will work with the Wisconsin National Guard, which will conduct COVID-19 testing as a service on site for all employees “in the near future” and said labs are ready to perform immediate processing of those tests.

“We have been in communication with Health Department staff on this matter and had briefed them on what we are doing to provide a safe and sanitary workplace,” Fallucca said. “We will work with the Health Department, local, and state officials to demonstrate our commitment to operating at a very high standard of cleanliness and sanitation that protects our employees and operations…We already have taken actions to respond to a potential workplace exposure that is based on Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. This includes requesting all coworkers who may have come into contact with an employee who tests positive to self-quarantine for 14 days; augmenting daily cleaning and sanitizing procedures with regular deep cleaning and sanitizing of common areas; and notifying all employees about the workplace exposure.”

Of the five Palermo’s employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, one is fully recovered, Fallucca said. The other four are quarantined at their homes, he said.

“The safety and well-being of our employees is a priority to our company, and we have taken several steps to help keep them safe and minimize the chance of them contracting the COVID-19 virus,” Fallucca said. “This includes having all employees not essential to production work from home, instituting social distancing measures and providing additional PPE (personal protective equipment) in our plant to help keep our manufacturing employees safe as well.”

There is no known risk to consumers who purchase Palermo’s products at the retail/grocery level, Fallucca said.

“It’s also important to reaffirm the safety of our products,” he said. “Palermo’s is a USDA regulated and supervised operation with USDA inspectors on-site during every shift to ensure stringent standards are met and to make sure our products meet the high standards set by federal regulators. In addition, according to the FDA, there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 is transmitted through consumption of shelf-stable, refrigerated or frozen foods. Food or food packaging also have not been associated with transmission.

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Andrew Weiland is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, Weiland is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, and son, Zachary. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys coaching his son’s youth baseball and basketball teams.

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