The largest U.S. meat packing union said on Thursday that 93 meat packing and food-processing workers have died from COVID-19 and continue to face risks from the new coronavirus.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which also represents workers at grocers and drug stores, told reporters on a call that more than 196 of its members have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. More than 2,300 members have been exposed to or affected by the virus in the last month, the union said.
The numbers reflect the steep toll that the contagious respiratory disease has taken on essential workers. States like California and Texas have notched big jumps in overall coronavirus infections.
Many meat packing employees are missing work because they are quarantined or afraid they will fall ill if they return to their jobs at plants that house thousands of workers.
About 20 plants run by companies like Tyson Foods Inc, JBS USA and Smithfield Foods closed in April as thousands of workers tested positive for COVID-19. The temporary shutdowns sent meat prices soaring and caused shortages of some products in grocery stores.
U.S. President Donald Trump issued an order on April 28 telling meat packers to stay open. Companies say they have spent tens of millions of dollars on measures to protect workers like providing them with masks, installing physical dividers on production lines and stepping up cleaning.
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