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A refugee and new grandmother was the eighth employee at a Colorado meat packing plant to die from coronavirus

Tin Aye and her husband, Aung Kwah Toe, wanted a better life for their young daughter and son, away from the refugee camp in Thailand where the children were...

Posted: May 18, 2020 10:39 AM

Tin Aye and her husband, Aung Kwah Toe, wanted a better life for their young daughter and son, away from the refugee camp in Thailand where the children were born.

"She wanted to take care of us, and she is a very hard worker," Aye's daughter, San Twin, told CNN on May 6. Aye and Toe had lived in the camp after fleeing their native Burma years before.

In August of 2007, the couple left southeast Asia and arrived in Colorado with their children. Unable to speak English and needing money to support her children, Aye took a job at JBS's Greeley beef plant, says Twin.

"It was very hard work, but she didn't want to change jobs," Twin told CNN. "She relied on her co-workers that spoke the same language and they would give her rides to work because she couldn't drive."

In the hospital since March

On Sunday, Tin Aye, 60, died of complications from Covid-19, according to a spokesperson for the Union Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 7, the union that represents workers in the JBS Greeley plant. Aye is the eighth JBS Greeley employee confirmed to have died from the novel coronavirus, the seventh worker from the plant. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's latest data shows 316 workers at the plant have tested positive for Covid-19. So have five corporate employees.

Aye had been in the hospital and on a ventilator since March 29th, one day after her first grandson, Felix, was born.

When Twin began having contractions on the 28th, she said, doctors tested her for Covid-19 as a precaution. Her test came back positive and doctors performed an emergency c-section to deliver Felix.

Once Twin knew of her positive test, she contacted her mother and told her to get to the hospital. Aye had symptoms for weeks, Twin said. Earlier in the month, she went to a JBS health clinic to be examined by company officials. Twin told CNN that her mother was told she had symptoms of the flu or common cold, and she could return to work.

"If this is true, it would be a clear violation of our culture and procedures, which puts team member health and safety first," Nikki Richardson, a JBS spokesperson, told CNN in early May. "No one is forced to come to work and no one is punished for being absent for health reasons. We do not want anyone who is sick coming to work, and anyone who is fearful of coming to work can simply call the company and inform us, and they will receive unpaid leave without any consequence to their employment."

Plant was temporarily closed for cleaning in April

On April 13th, JBS announced it was temporarily closing the Greeley plant to sanitize and implement new safety initiatives in the facility. On April 24th, the plant resumed operations. JBS said it would screen all workers coming into the plant for high temperatures and other symptoms common with Covid-19. Workers that felt sick were mandated to stay home. Any worker older than 70, pregnant, on dialysis or undergoing cancer treatment was removed from all production facilities.

During her stay in the hospital, Aye was connected to a ventilator for over a month. Twin says her mom suffered multiple strokes, had fluid in her lungs, and had surgeries to insert a feeding tube.

Twin was able to see her mother in person before she died Sunday afternoon. But her mother never met her first grandson, Felix.

"I want people to know she was a very humble, sweet, and giving person," says Twin. "If she saw a homeless person on the street and hungry, she would give them her food and she wouldn't eat. She loved taking care of people, but especially her family."

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1228867

Reported Deaths: 40806
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