Meat workers have been hit hard by coronavirus outbreaks, with thousands of illnesses and a growing number of deaths reported nationwide.
The highly-contagious coronavirus has proven especially hard to control in meat processing facilities, where employees commonly work long shifts standing shoulder-to-shoulder with each other.
On May 1, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 4,913 cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) infections and 20 deaths among workers at 115 meat and poultry plants in 19 states.
The CDC recommended improving physical distancing, hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfection, medical leave policies for sick workers, and educating workers to help reduce COVID-19 in meat plants.
These recommendations were echoed by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), America’s largest meatpacking union.
In addition, the union also recommended testing more workers, giving meatpacking facilities priority access to personal protective equipment (PPE), halting line speed waivers, mandating social distancing, and isolating workers with symptoms or testing positive for COVID-19.
In the past two months, at least 22 meatpacking plants have closed temporarily, and many more are operating at reduced capacity.