Meat and poultry processing facilities have been among the industries hit hardest by the pandemic. At least 86 workers have died and more than 16,200 in 239 facilities have been exposed to or infected by the virus, according to statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Numerous reasons can be and have been pointed out on why this industry has been hit so hard:
- Prolonged close workplace contact with coworkers (within 6 feet for ≥15 minutes) for long time periods (8–12 hour shifts)
- Shared workspaces
- Shared transportation to and from the workplace
- Congregate housing
- Frequent community contact with fellow workers
- Cold and damp conditions on the work-floor that offer the perfect environment for the virus to spread
- The fact that these sites often have noisy machinery that requires people to talk more loudly or shout which may increase the spread of infected droplets
While I fear more outbreaks may still occur, it is encouraging to see companies take responsibility and make the effort to limit exposure in the workplace, and keep our food supply chain safe.
Among 239 facilities reporting cases, information on interventions and prevention efforts was available for 111 (46%) facilities from 14 states. Overall, 89 (80%) facilities reported screening workers on entry, 86 (77%) required all workers to wear face coverings, 72 (65%) increased the availability of hand hygiene stations, 70 (63%) educated workers on community spread, and 69 (62%) installed physical barriers between workers (Table 2). Forty-one (37%) of 111 facilities offered testing for SARS-CoV-2 to workers; 24 (22%) reported closing temporarily as an intervention measure.