Nearly 5,000 workers at the country’s meat processing plants have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control.
The US agency tested workers at more than 100 meat processing plants in 19 states and found that nearly 3 percent of them had the virus that has killed more than 60,000 Americans and sickened more than 3 million around the world, according to CNBC.
The CDC warned that the real percentage of infected workers could be even higher, as testing limitations prevented it from being able to get a complete picture of the scale.
“The recognized risk to meat and poultry facility operation requires prompt action to decrease risks to workers, preserve facility function, and maintain the food supply,” CDC researchers said.
Workers in the meat processing facilities often need to stand close together — something that has caused outbreaks to explode in some of the country’s main plants. The CDC researchers added that “socioeconomic challenges” could force workers to feel the need to work even if they are ill.
“Some employees were incentivized to work while ill as a result of medical leave and disability policies and attendance bonuses that could encourage working while experiencing symptoms,” the researchers said.
The report comes a day after 900 workers at an Indiana Tyson Foods pork plant reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus. The Logansport facility has seen positive tests for 40 percent of its workers.
Tyson has voluntarily idled its meat processing facilities in Waterloo and Perry, Iowa, and beef plants in Pasco, Washington, and Dakota City, Nebraska, while it completes cleaning of the facilities and workers there undergo screening.