CDC says 87 percent of coronavirus-infected meatpacking workers were minorities

Of the many domestic meat and poultry processing facilities that have reported COVID-19 outbreaks, 87 percent of infections occurred in minorities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

From April to May, 23 states reported COVID-19 outbreaks in processing facilities that reported on race and ethnicity, with 16,233 confirmed cases and 86 related deaths, according to an update published on Tuesday.

These facilities face “distinctive challenges,” the CDC wrote, due to prolonged close contact among workers, shared workspaces and transportation, congregate housing and frequent community contact.


In each state, a median of seven facilities was affected, the CDC wrote in the report.

The health agency said 61 percent of the facilities included race and ethnicity data in their reports. Among 9,919 workers with COVID-19, 56 percent of infections were in Hispanics, 19 percent were in non-Hispanic Blacks, 13 percent were in non-Hispanic Whites and 12 percent were in Asians.

Among 10,284 workers’ symptom status, 88 percent were symptomatic.

Given the clear occupational risk and health disparities among racial and ethnic minorities, the CDC says the facilities should offer culturally appropriate health education materials and screen workers for possible infection.

Hand hygiene and the use of face coverings are also encouraged, with the CDC advising companies should increase space between workers and encourage them to take sick leave when needed.

In early May, a Portland, Maine, meat processing plant, for example, resumed production after a nearly weeklong shutdown over a coronavirus outbreak.

New cases had continued to surface at the city’s Tyson Foods by May 7, and reports counted at least 51 positive cases at the time. All 400 employees and 30 contractors were tested and, according to WMTW 8 ABC, the workforce mostly consists of immigrants.

Since the outbreak, Tyson Foods rolled out testing capabilities like taking workers’ temperature upon arrival, face mask usage and physical barriers where six feet of distance could not be maintained, according to a report from WGME.


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