CDC Releases COVID Data on America's Meat Plants

Some 56% of infections were in Latino workers
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 9, 2020 4:59 AM CDT
CDC: Minority Workers Were 87% of Meat Plant COVID Cases
In this Thursday, May 21, 2020, file photo, Farmer John workers wear face masks as they walk to the plant where some employees contracted the coronavirus in Vernon, Calif.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

(Newser) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says fewer than half the states provided detailed data for a study of COVID-19 infections in meat plants—but the information they do have is disturbing. The CDC says 87% of coronavirus infections in meat and poultry plants in the states that provided data were among minorities, especially Latino workers, who made up around 30% of the meat processing workforce but accounted for 56% of cases, the Hill reports. Another 19% of infected workers were Black and 12% were Asian. With data from 23 states, the CDC said it had identified 17,358 cases of COVID-19, including 91 deaths, at 264 meat and poultry plants through May 31. Nebraska reported the most cases, with 3,438 confirmed infections and at least 19 deaths.

The CDC says only 37% of the plants where infections were found offered testing to employees. Their report notes that meat and chicken plant workers tend to spend long shifts working within less than 6 feet of each other, and often live in shared housing and share transport to and from work. NBC reports that a coalition of food worker and civil rights activists filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Tyson Foods Inc. and JBS USA, saying federal payments to the companies should be halted. "For the purpose of maximizing profits and processing capacity, these companies treat plant floor workers as sacrificial," the lawsuit states. (In April, President Trump signed an executive order requiring meat plants to stay open during the pandemic.)

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