Here, a 'Staggering' Number of Virus Cases

The CBC goes inside a Cargill meat-packing plant
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2020 2:22 PM CDT
It's the Largest Outbreak Tied to One Facility on Our Continent
This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the spherical particles of the new coronavirus, colorized blue, from the first US case of COVID-19.   (Hannah A. Bullock, Azaibi Tamin/CDC via AP, File)

(Newser) – "We need a public inquiry and we need a criminal investigation and we need them now." The words were uttered by the head of the Calgary and District Labour Council after the death of Hiep Bui. The 67-year-old Canadian woman lost her life to COVID-19—after contracting the virus at her workplace of 23 years: the Cargill meat-packing plant in Alberta. In a lengthy piece for the CBC, Joel Dryden and Sarah Rieger take readers to the High River plant, "the site of the largest COVID-19 outbreak linked to a single facility in North America." That outbreak is made up of 949 employees who tested positive; 1,560 cases have been tied to the plant. Bui is the only recorded death. Dryden and Rieger call that a "staggering" count considering as of May 1, the US had 4,913 confirmed COVID-19 cases across all of its meat-packing plants.

Interviews with 14 active employees whose names were withheld surface workplace-related allegations that go beyond the virus-related (such as fingernails that turn black due to bad blood circulation allegedly caused by how hard workers on the fabrication line have to grip their knives). But there are virus-related ones too, involving how crowded things were on that line, in the cafeteria, and in the locker room after the outbreak began. The plant reopened Monday after being closed for 15 days, and one worker said a plant nurse called her husband, who also works there, and dismissed his symptoms in encouraging him to come back to work, telling him, "That’s only flu, that’s only cough. You're fit to work." A rep for Cargill say that's not so, and the piece does describe new protective measures in place. (Read the full piece here.)

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