May 1, 2020 - Economy

CDC tracked nearly 5,000 coronavirus cases in meat processing facilities

chicken in a grocery store.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Nearly 5,000 coronavirus cases and 20 deaths have occurred in 115 meat and poultry processing facilities across the U.S., data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.

Why it matters: The federal government has ordered meatpacking plants to remain open to keep America's food supply chain intact. But the data reveal worker safety is jeopardized when companies don't drastically change the work culture and provide protective equipment.

  • Many of the employees are low-income and are not offered paid sick leave or health benefits, which encourages employees to come to work sick.
  • The facilities with the largest outbreaks failed at providing adequate space for workers or had workers who found covering their faces difficult to adequately do their job.

Driving the news: The CDC released guidance Friday encouraging facilities to ax bonuses or wage incentives for workers based on attendance. It also recommended:

  • The production line should also be altered to improve physical distancing, hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfection for "high-touch" areas like doorknobs and handles.
  • Facilities should provide materials in languages spoken by their workers.

The big picture: High concentrations of cases have been found in meatpacking plants, long-term care facilities, correctional facilities and homeless shelters due to their enclosed environments and operational structures.

Go deeper: Coronavirus breaks the food supply chain

Go deeper