COVID-19 outbreaks among meat and poultry processing facility workers can rapidly affect large numbers of people, according to a report of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday.
The animal slaughtering and processing industry employs an estimated 525,000 workers in approximately 3,500 facilities across the United States, according to the report.
Among 23 states reporting COVID-19 outbreaks in meat and poultry processing facilities, 16,233 cases in 239 facilities occurred, including 86 COVID-19-related deaths, said the report.
Among cases with race or ethnicity reported, 87 percent occurred among racial or ethnic minorities.
Distinctive factors that increase meat and poultry processing workers’ risk for exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, include prolonged close workplace contact with coworkers for long time periods, shared work spaces, shared transportation to and from the workplace, congregate housing, and frequent community contact with fellow workers, according to the CDC.
Many of these factors might also contribute to ongoing community transmission, said the report.
Commonly implemented interventions included worker screening, source control measures such as universal face coverings, engineering controls such as physical barriers, and infection prevention measures such as additional hand hygiene stations, according to the report.
“Targeted workplace interventions and prevention efforts that are appropriately tailored to the groups most affected by COVID-19 are critical to reducing both COVID-19-associated occupational risk and health disparities among vulnerable populations,” said the report. Enditem