May 7, 2020 - Today in the world of coronavirus news –
As concerns grow about how the coronavirus is affecting the food chain, new reports show food factory workers and federal food inspectors are dying and missing work because of COVID-19.
The food workers’ union said at least 20 employees have died of the virus. The union representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) food inspectors said three have died.
The food inspectors who died worked in the New York City area, the Chicago area and in Mississippi, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) said, according to CBS News.
"Every day there are inspectors going into facilities where there are known positive COVID-19 cases," said Paula Schelling, acting president of AFGE Council 45. "People are still going in there and doing inspections."
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) told CBS News that about 145 field employees had been diagnosed with COVID-19 as of April 28. Another 130 were self-quarantining because they’d been exposed.
In a news release issued last week, the United Food and Commercial Workers International (UFCW) confirmed at least 20 workers in meatpacking and food processing plants have died of the coronavirus.
At least 5,000 meatpacking workers and 1,500 food processing workers have been “impacted” by the virus, meaning they tested positive for COVID-19, missed work due to self-quarantine, were waiting for test results, or had been hospitalized or were symptomatic, the UFCW said.
Twenty-two meatpacking plants have closed because of the virus, the UFCW said.
COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported at meat plants across the nation, with some plants having to shut down operations. President Donald Trump recently ordered meatpacking plants to remain open if possible.
The UFCW responded by calling for more safety measures.
“While we share the concern over the food supply, today’s executive order to force meatpacking plants to stay open must put the safety of our country’s meatpacking workers first,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “Simply put, we cannot have a secure food supply without the safety of these workers.”
The union called for increased worker testing, more access to personal protection equipment, mandating social distancing and isolating workers who show symptoms or test positive for COVID-19.