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Coronavirus outbreaks at two California chicken plants

Meat processor Foster Farms temporarily closed a poultry processing plant for deep cleaning following a coronavirus outbreak at the facility in Fresno, California. In the past two weeks, 193 of the 1,400 employees at the plant tested positive for COVID-19, reported the Fresno Bee.

Meanwhile, Merced County officials reported a COVID-19 outbreak at a Foster Farms plant in Livingston, 70 miles northwest of Fresno in the Central Valley. Seven workers at the Livingston plant tested positive for COVID-19, said the Bee.

Foster Farms said prevalence of COVID-19 at its plant on Cherry Street “began ramping up in early November concurrent with the acceleration of cases throughout Fresno County,” said the newspaper. The coronavirus rate at Foster Farms’ plant on Belgravia Avenue in Fresno remained below 1%, according to the company. At least two Foster Farms employees in Fresno have died of coronavirus-related complications.

When the plant on Cherry Street reopens, workers will be tested twice a week, said Foster Farms.

The Merced Sun-Star said county officials added Foster Farms to their list of workplaces with COVID-19 outbreaks last Wednesday.

“Foster Farms return to the outbreak list is notable, as the Livingston plant previously spent many weeks on the outbreak list,” said the Sun-Star. “The outbreak resulted in 92 Foster Farms employees testing positive for COVID-19, nine of whom died. The workplace outbreak was the worst in Merced County and one of the deadliest in the state, according to County Public Health officials.”

The United Food and Commercial Workers union said President-elect Joe Biden’s selection of Xavier Becerra to serve as U.S. health secretary “sends a clear message that this administration is ready to fight for our country’s frontline workers. Protecting our country’s essential workers is crucial to taking control of this pandemic and rebuilding the economy.” The UFCW represents 1.3 million food and retail workers.

At least 339 workers at meat plants, food processing plants, and farms have died of COVID-19 and nearly 75,000 co-workers have had confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to data collected by FERN as of Monday at midday.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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