CDC report reveals extent of COVID-19 impact on meat plant workers

A new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the heavy toll COVID-19 took on meat plant workers in April and May.
calendar icon 8 July 2020
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According to reporting in Reuters, the coronavirus pandemic sickened more than 17,000 workers at various meat and poultry processing facilities across the US in April and May of this year. The CDC also recorded nearly 100 deaths from COVID-19 among meat plant workers.

In rural areas of the United States, meat packing plants been the loci of coronavirus outbreaks. This is because employees must work long hours indoors and in close proximity to one another.

A CDC report released on 7 July synthesised surveillance data from health departments across 23 states through 31 May for all meat and poultry facilities affected by the novel coronavirus. It compiled 16,233 confirmed cases among the workers, with 86 related deaths.

Among cases where demographic data was recorded, 87 percent of cases occurred among racial and ethnic minority workers.

The CDC said that 12 percent of the cases were asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. However, not all facilities performed widespread coronavirus testing. Because of this, there may have been many more cases that went unreported.

Taken together with an earlier CDC assessment of meat processing plant workers through 27 April, the totals were 17,358 coronavirus cases and 91 deaths through the end of May.

Reuters reports that most plant have implemented health and safety measures, including supplying PPE to workers, providing hand sanitiser, ensuring tools and implements are disinfected and screening workers for COVID-19 symptoms.

The researchers said that targeted, workplace-specific prevention strategies are critical to reduce COVID-19 health disparities among vulnerable populations.

“Lessons learned from investigating outbreaks of COVID-19 in meat and poultry processing facilities could inform investigations in other food production and agriculture workplaces,” the authors said.

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