Report: COVID-19 cases, deaths in packing plants 3x higher than reported

A new report says COVID-19 cases and deaths in five of the largest meat packing plants in the U.S. are three times higher than originally estimated because of safety failures.

The report released Wednesday by the U.S. House Select Subcommittee On The Coronavirus Crisis found that JBS USA, Tyson Foods Inc, Smithfield Foods, Cargill and National Beef “prioritized profits and production” over worker safety and allowed employees to work in crowded facilities as the virus “spread easily.”

According to the document, more 59,000 workers were infected and 269 died during the first year of the pandemic, tripling the original estimates reported by the Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN).

The report also says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration failed to protect worker safety by not issuing regulations for meat packers implement stricter health standards and left the companies “largely unchecked.” 

The union for meatpacking and food processing workers says the report exposes the truth about the impact of COVID-19 and calls on Congress to strengthen health standards for employees.

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