USA TODAY: Coronavirus at meatpacking plants worse than first thought, USA TODAY investigation finds
Coronavirus at meatpacking plants worse than first thought, USA TODAY investigation finds
Coronavirus closed Smithfield and JBS meatpacking plants. Many more are at risk. Operators may have to choose between worker health or meat in stores.
Kyle Bagenstose, Sky Chadde and Matt Wynn, USA TODAY Updated 1:13 p.m. MDT Apr. 22, 2020
Tyson Foods installed plastic barriers between worker stations at its meat and poultry plants to protect against transmission of the coronavirus.Tyson Foods
A rash of coronavirus outbreaks at dozens of meatpacking plants across the nation is far more extensive than previously thought, according to an exclusive review of cases by USA TODAY and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.
And it could get worse. More than 150 of America’s largest meat processing plants operate in counties where the rate of coronavirus infection is already among the nation’s highest, based on the media outlets’ analysis of slaughterhouse locations and county-level COVID-19 infection rates.
These facilities represent more than 1 in 3 of the nation’s biggest beef, pork and poultry processing plants. Rates of infection around these plants are higher than those of 75% of other U.S. counties, the analysis found.
And while experts say the industry has thus far maintained sufficient production despite infections in at least 2,200 workers at 48 plants, there are fears that the number of cases could continue to rise and that meatpacking plants will become the next disaster zones.
"Initially our concern was long-term care facilities," said Gary Anthone, Nebraska’s chief medical officer, in a Facebook Live video Sunday. “If there’s one thing that might keep me up at night, it’s the meat processing plants and the manufacturing plants." MORE