June 3, 2020

Meat Processing Facilities Close As Workers Get Sick With COVID-19

This news isn’t going to help with the hoarding problem in this country because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but several meat processing facilities close around the country as their workers start getting sick with coronavirus, according to NPR. Food workers are categorized as essential workers during the pandemic.

Meat Processing Facilities Close As Workers Get Sick With COVID-19

Tyson Foods has suspended operations at its pork plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa. National Beef Packing, also located in Iowa, stopped production as well. And JBS USA temporarily closed a beef processing plant in Pennsylvania. JBS USA also confirmed the death of one employee at a facility in Colorado.

Three employees at the Tyson Foods poultry plant in Camilla, Georgia have died of COVID-19, according to the New York Times. Because of these illnesses and deaths, it’s getting harder for these corporation to attract employees in the first place.

The nature of the virus is very problematic. People who are infected with COVID-19 don’t show symptoms until up to two weeks later, which means they can spread the virus without even knowing they are sick. Some people don’t have symptoms at all when they are infected. And no human being has immunity to this virus because it is completely new, or novel.

Most food companies and farms are still operating during the pandemic. But given the high R0 (R naught) value of the virus, some in the industry are concerned that more people working in these jobs that are labor intensive could get sick. R naught is the measure of the number of people one ill person infects. If that number is above one, the number of patients will grow. When it falls below one, the pandemic will slowly end. Currently experts at the World Health Organization think the R0 number is 2.0 to 2.5.

Companies are helping their employees by buying them face masks and increasing the distance between people, which are two recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some companies are also putting dividers between workers on assembly lines. These measures can, unfortunately, also slow down production speeds.

At this time experts don’t think there will be a serious disruption to the food supply in the U.S., even as meat processing facilities close. But if the pandemic continues for months, it could be difficult to find some products in stores. And it’s important to remember that food safety experts say to not hoard food, since this action causes more disruptions in the supply chain.

 

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