Transparency missing for Covid-19 cases in meatpacking plants

Will Aviles in Lincoln Journal Star, May 27, 2020, writes that with meatpacking plants remaining open as essential to the nation’s food supply, the owners in Nebraska have acted slowly to provide hazard pay, personal protective equipment and other safety measures. They also refuse to reveal the number of cases in a plant.

The CDC reports 5,00 cases of Covid-19 in meatpacking plants across the country, but a nonprofit, Food & Entertainment Reporting Network, estimated the number at over 17,000 with 66 deaths. Smithfield Foods in North Carolina refused to release the number of cases in the Tar Heel plant, and the local health officials cited privacy in refusing to supply the figure. The private companies are not legally required to disclose the numbers of sick workers, but in a pandemic information is vital in dealling with the fallout. “’Alerting a community about the number of cases in a particular place is a standard public health response,’ said Nicole Huberfeld, a public health expert at Boston University. ‘People need to act appropriately if they are exposed.’” (The New York Times, May 25, 2020, by Michael Corkery, David Yaffe-Bellany and Derek Kravitz)

For related FAC coverage, click here and here.