The three children of a meatpacking worker who died from COVID-19 say Tyson Foods lied to the public—and didn't start protecting workers until it was too late. The children of Pedro Cano say he was infected while working "elbow-to-elbow" with other workers at the Columbus Junction, Iowa pork plant that was the site of the first reported COVID outbreak at a meatpacking plant in the state, reports the Des Moines Register. They say Cano first started showing symptoms on April 2, four days before the plant temporarily closed. He was hospitalized on April 10 and died on April 14. Authorities in Iowa say 522 of the plant’s 1,300 workers tested positive and two died, the AP reports. Cano's family is suing the company for negligence, as are the relatives of four deceased workers from the company's Waterloo, Iowa pork plant.
The Cano family's lawsuit says Cano and other workers were not issued protective equipment and managers did not provide any guidance on COVID-19, despite Department of Labor guidelines issued March 9. The lawsuit says Cano was still working without a mask and gloves in late March and early April, though Tyson told its white-collar employees to work from home starting March 17. The lawsuit says Tyson execs lied when they said the company was being "diligent about educating team members"—and when they said they were staying open to protect the US meat supply while sending large amounts of pork to China. Workers in meatpacking plants were hit hard in the early months of the pandemic. More than 200 workers died, but as of last month, regulators had issued only two fines totaling $29,000, the Washington Post reports. (Read more coronavirus stories.)