59,000 U.S. Meat Industry Workers Exposed to Covid-19

59,000 U.S. Meat Industry Workers Exposed to Covid-19

A total of 59,000 workers in the packaged meat industry were exposed to Covid-19. A total of 269 workers of them died. The US parliamentary report said the figure was three times higher than expected.

Ummatimes - Reporting from CBS News, Friday (29/10), the report also said that the packaged meat industry was one of the initial epicenters of the virus pandemic. Companies should provide protection for workers.

The report said the number of new infections in the industry was much higher than the US Food and Commercial Workers Union estimated at 22,400 cases. The number of infected is even predicted to be higher because company documents usually do not account for coronavirus cases confirmed by outside testing or self-reported by employees.

A study of working-age adults in California published in June also found that the food and agriculture sectors had the highest death rates from Covid-19.

“Workers are contracting the coronavirus at an alarming rate due to conditions at meat packaging facilities, meat packaging companies prioritize profit and production over worker safety, continuing to implement practices that lead to overcrowded facilities where the virus spreads easily,” the report said.

At the height of the outbreak last spring, U.S. meat packaging production had fallen to about 60 percent of normal levels. Several large factories were forced to temporarily close for cleaning.

The report said that the company was slow to take protective measures such as checking employee temperatures, distributing protective equipment such as masks and installing barriers between workers. Meanwhile, the North American Meat Institute trade group also responded.

"Frontline meat and poultry workers were among the first to be affected by the pandemic, but publicly available data confirm that comprehensive measures implemented in the sector since spring 2020, including extensive infection prevention and vaccination efforts, have successfully protected the workforce. who are dedicated and diverse in this sector as they continue to feed Americans and keep our economy going," said trade group President and CEO, Julie Anna Potts.

In a statement, companies in the industry such as Cargill, Tyson and JBS said they were working aggressively to meet health and safety standards to protect their employees. The company was already conducting extensive testing during the height of the pandemic and urging employees to be vaccinated.

"Throughout the pandemic, we have worked hard to maintain safe and consistent operations. At the same time, we have not hesitated to temporarily halt or reduce capacity at processing plants when we decide to do so," said Cargill spokesman Daniel Sullivan.

"Even one illness or loss of life from COVID-19 is one too many, which is why we have taken progressive action since the beginning of the pandemic to protect the health and safety of our workers, including extensive testing and vaccine requirements that have affected more than 96 percent of the US workforce. we are vaccinated," said Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson.

The report also notes that infection rates are very high in some meat-packing factories. For example, 54 percent of the workforce at the JBS plant in Hyrum, Utah, contracted the virus between March 2020 and February 2021. And 44 percent of the employees at the National Beef plant in Tama, Iowa, contracted COVID-19 from April 2020 to February 2021.