Infections near US meat factories increase twice the national rate

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Coronavirus has spread to more than double the national rate in US counties with large meat packing plants in the first week after President Donald Trump released aexecutive decree ordering their reopening.

According to Bloomberg News analysis of data compiled by Bloomberg News, confirmed cases of Covid-19 jumped 40% in the week after ordering in counties with large beef or pork slaughterhouses, up from an increase of 19% nationally.Johns Hopkins University. Counties represented 10% of new confirmed cases from April 28 to May 5 when they represented only 7.5% of the American population.

Infections increased even faster where slaughterhouses were outside the main population centers, and could have a greater impact. This disparity underscores the extent to which the areas around meat processors – many of which are located in rural areas far from the original hotspots – have become epicenters of the virus. The data do not relate to other types of industrial facilities that may be located in these counties.

Meat factories push Covid numbers higher

Sources: Johns Hopkins University, Department of Agriculture (USDA)

The situation worsened in the first week after Trump’s April 28 decree despite the temporary closings of many meat factories. County-level data in most parts of the country does not identify the employers of those infected.
Virus epidemics in meat packing plants are likely to now spread more widely to surrounding communities, saidNicholas Christakis, director of the Human Nature Lab at Yale University and an expert on how contagion spreads through social media.

“We cannot somehow think that we can ignore a hotspot near us and not be affected by it,” said Christakis. “What starts in a meat packaging plant does not stay in a meat packaging plant. “

The Trump administration has lobbied to reopen meat plants after a series of shutdowns due to the pandemic, which has dramatically reduced slaughter capacity, causing skyrocketing prices for pork and beef while farmers n ‘Having no place to sell pigs began to slaughter herds with huge financial losses.

Thousands of people infected

Much of the workforce in some US meat processing plants has tested positive for the virus.

  • A Tyson Foods Inc. plant in Perry, Iowa has counted 730 cases, representing 58% of the workforce, said Sarah Reisetter, deputy director of the state health department, on Tuesday.
  • At another Tyson plant in Waterloo, Iowa, 1,031 cases were reported among about 2,800 employees as of Thursday, said Joseph Pikora, manager of disease surveillance for the county health department. Black Hawk.
  • At the Smithfield Foods Inc. pork plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, preliminary results indicate that 870 of the 3,268 workers and family members tested were infected, said Governor Kristi Noem.

The three factories have started to reopen.

Conditions in meat packing plants – including the difficulty in maintaining social distance and meeting high cleaning standards – have contributed to the spread of the virus,The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ended ina May 1 report.

At least 30 meat workers died from the coronavirus and more than 10,000 were infected or exposed, according to theInternational Union of United Food and Commercial Workers. At least 30 factories have closed at some point in the past two months, the union said.May 8.

Industry attributes high infection rates to aggressive testing. “There is no other industry or community that watches their people as diligently as we do, except perhaps Health care, ” saidSarah Little, spokesperson for the North American Meat Institute.

Read more: How will the US meat industry change from coronavirus?

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Friday that 14 large meat processing facilities are reopening. The ministry has asked all meat processors to submit plans to meet industry safety guidelines issued by the CDC.

The counties have studied beef or pork slaughterhouses that the United States Department of Agriculture classified in the largest category on a scale of 1 to 5.

In counties with large slaughterhouses with less than 1 million people, there was a 47% increase in confirmed cases for the week. These 72 counties account for 5.8% of the country’s new infections, although they represent only 3.1% of the national population.

– With the help of James Attwood

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