Working conditions in meat plants tied to COVID spread


Working conditions in meat plants tied to COVID spread

A study done by researchers at the University of Chicago and Columbia University found a ‘strong relationship’ between the proximity of livestock plants and the number of COVID-19 cases over time.

The study said as of July 21, there have been an estimated 236,000 to 310,000 COVID-19 cases and 4,300 to 5,200 deaths associated with livestock plants.

Researcher Charles Taylor said the study points to the size and working conditions of the plants having a direct impact on the susceptibility of the workers to the virus. The larger the plant, the greater the spread. He tells Brownfield the USDA issued line speed waivers to certain poultry plants which allowed them to operate faster than normal during the pandemic.

“Plants that had received, in particularly recently, these waivers to increase speed saw greater COVID rates compared to the baseline [of] average livestock plants so to speak,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the study serves as a warning of what a future outbreak would look like.

“If faster measures were taken to control the spread of the virus, I think there would have been a lot less cases in the U.S. and in the communities around the livestock plants,” he said. “That would be a lesson from the study.”

Taylor said in the case of another outbreak, measures like a more decentralized food system and health, safety and operating changes inside plants would decrease virus spread.