New guidance by the Centers for Disease Control seeks to protect meatpacking workers from COVID-19. The meat and poultry processing workers are not exposed to the virus through the meat products they handle.
However, their work environments—processing lines and others where they have close contact with coworkers and supervisors—may contribute substantially to their potential exposures. Many meatpacking facilities across the nation have closed for short periods due to infection rates of workers at the facilities.
The CDC says meatpackers should configure work environments so that workers are spaced at least six feet apart, if possible. Additionally, facilities should use physical barriers, such as strip curtains, plexiglass or similar materials, or other dividers or partitions, to separate meat and poultry processing workers from each other, if feasible.
Further, facilities should consider consulting with a ventilation engineer to ensure adequate ventilation in work areas to minimize workers’ potential exposures. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association welcomed the response, saying the guidance protects workers, and supports the operation of beef processing plants.
Smithfield Foods in Crete, Neb., will be shuttering as COVID-19 cases continue to rise among plant workers. The plant harvests 10,000 hogs a day. As of Sunday, there were 47 positive tests of COVID-19 at the pork processing plant.
On April 24, Smithfield announced temporary closure of their pork plant in Monmouth, Ill.
The company has been proactively and aggressively tackling COVID-19 by implementing processes, protocols and protective measures throughout its operations and remains committed to doing everything in its power to help protect its team members from COVID-19 in the workplace, Smithfield said in a statement on Friday.