Three Workers Die From COVID-19 At Shuttered Meat Plants

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At least three workers at shuttered meat plants have died of coronavirus as others in the industry warn of perilous working conditions amid the pandemic.  

Tyson Foods was forced to suspend operations at a pork processing plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa last week, after dozens of employees tested positive for coronavirus. 

The company said Wednesday it was 'deeply saddened by the loss of two team members'. 

The latest shutdowns show the situs judi domino 99; simply click the up coming web site, effect that can occur when the closure of a major slaughterhouse removes raw materials that are turned into food for consumers.

As many as half a dozen plants have shut because of outbreaks. Because the workers who slaughter and pack the nation's meat are vulnerable, so, too, is the supply of that meat. 

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said they are working to reopen the plant by next week after a beef plant in Tama also stopped operations.

The Republican said: 'We're doing all of the above to make sure that we can continue to protect all of our employees but also make sure that we can protect this critical essential infrastructure as well.' 

Employees and family members protest outside a Smithfield Foods processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., Thursday, April 9, 2020. To comply with social distancing, they protested from their cars, circling the road outside the factory and honking their horns

Tyson Foods was forced to suspend operations at this pork processing plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa this week, after more than 24 employees there tested positive for coronavirus 

Chinese-owned meat packing giant Smithfield Foods said Wednesday it had closed two additional plants in the U.S. after coronavirus outbreaks, raising concerns about the American food supply chain.

Smithfield announced the closures of packing plants in Cudahy, Wisconsin and Martin City, Missouri on Wednesday, days after its Sioux Falls, South Dakota plant was indefinitely shuttered.

Smithfield said in a statement that a 'small number of employees' at both the Cudahy and the Martin City plants had tested positive for the virus, without offering further details.  

The plant in Sioux Falls reported 518 infections in employees and another 126 in people connected to them as of Wednesday, making it among the largest known clusters in the United States. 

A 64-year-old employee who contracted COVID-19 died Tuesday, according to his pastor.

Smithfield's Sioux Falls plant, where 518 employees and 120 of their family members have tested positive for coronavirus, is now closed indefinitely

Kulule Amosa's husband earns $17.70 an hour at Smithfield Foods pork plant doing a job so physically demanding it can only be performed in 30-minute increments. After each shift last week, he left exhausted as usual — but told The Associated Press did not want to go home.

He was scared he would infect his pregnant wife with the coronavirus — so much so that when he pulled into the parking lot of their apartment building, he would call Amosa to tell her he wasn't coming inside. 

When he eventually did, he would sleep separately from her in their two-bedroom apartment. 'I'm really, really scared and worried,' Amosa said Monday.  

Smithfield CEO Kenneth Sullivan said the closure of the plant, which produces roughly 5% of the U.S. pork supply each day, was 'pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply.'  

The outbreak at the plant has also presented a significant test to a governor who has resisted issuing sweeping stay-at-home orders.

As Republican Gov. Kristi Noem was pressed again this week to impose tighter restrictions on Sioux Falls, her response instead was to announce that the state would give wide access to an anti-malarial drug championed by President Donald Trump as a promising treatment for COVID-19, but that has yet to be proven effective.

Noem has fired back, arguing that plant workers were deemed essential and would have been reporting for duty regardless. 

Smithfield spokeswoman Keira Lombardo said difficulty in getting masks and thermal scanners led to delays in implementing some safety measures when the plant was open. 

But she said last week the plant was adding extra hand-sanitizing stations, scanning employees' temperatures before they entered and installing Plexiglas barriers in some areas. 

Six current employees interviewed by the AP who, like Amosa's husband, insisted on anonymity because they feared they would be fired described far more haphazard measures. 

They said they were given flimsy masks made of hairnet-like material, hand-washing stations were in disrepair, and there was pressure to keep working even if they felt sick.

One employee told his supervisor on March 30 that he had a fever the previous day, but he was told to report to work and not to tell anyone about the fever. He worked that day, missed the next two and returned when the fever broke, he said. 

'No one asked if I went to the doctor, if I was tested,' the employee said.

Lombardo said Smithfield 'fully rejects any claims that employees were pressured to report to work,' calling it 'completely counterproductive' to do so.

Smithfield has said it plans to clean the plant and implement more protections in the hopes of reopening. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control sent a team to the plant this week to examine how it can be safely restarted.

But that may be difficult. Workers say they cannot fathom how butchering lines could be reconfigured to accommodate social distancing.

Meanwhile, Amosa and her husband are both home now — nervously awaiting their first child. But they also have a new worry: His coronavirus test came back positive Tuesday.