Public health experts warn of possible Covid-19 resurgence at food plants this fall

The disease has not recurred at the levels seen in the spring, when many meat plants closed due to worker illness.

Public health experts are concerned about a possible resurgence of COVID-19 in food production plants this fall. They say more comprehensive testing, physical distancing, and better data reporting are essential to keeping the virus in check, even as meatpackers insist that the worst of the pandemic has passed. 

The disease has not recurred at the levels seen in the spring, when many meat plants closed due to worker illness. But experts say there is still a risk of a resurgence despite the efforts taken by meatpackers to slow the spread of the virus.

“Our case counts are down, [but] I really don’t expect them to stay down,” says Mark Lauritsen, director of the food processing and meatpacking division of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents more than 250,000 workers. “I expect the fall and winter we’ll see an uptick.”

FERN has been counting COVID-19 outbreaks, cases, and deaths in the food system for nearly six months. That data is drawn from news reports, public records requests, public health departments, and, occasionally, food companies. FERN has counted more than 71,000 worker cases and 321 deaths linked to nearly 1,400 COVID-19 outbreaks at meat and food plants and on farms.

Read the full story here.

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