Packing plant distancing protocols have impact on COVID infections
A USDA study indicates COVID avoidance measures taken by packing plants have had a positive impact. The study – from USDA’s Economic Research Service – shows new coronavirus cases in rural counties dependent on packing plants for employment are about the same as other rural counties. That is after a late April infection spike in packing plant-dependent counties that was about seven times higher than in non-meat packing counties.
The early spring jump in cases among packing plant workers resulted in the temporary closure of many plants to prevent COVID spread and to implement distancing protocols among workers. Even though meatpacking-dependent counties are dealing with a second wave of infections, the surge is similar to infection rates in non-meatpacking counties.
There are 49 rural counties in the U.S. where meatpacking accounts for more than 20 percent of all county employment, including smaller communities such as Dakota City, Nebraska, and Worthington, Minnesota.
The U.S. meatpacking industry employs about a half-million people.