The number of cases of COVID-19 among meat plant workers has risen to 16,600 in the past month from just 3,700 in April, according to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.
The cases were reported at 197 plants in 32 states as of Tuesday, according to the organization, which tracks cases through public records and media reports.
There have been at least 64 reported worker deaths at 32 plants in 19 states, the organization said. That is a tripling of the number of deaths from 17 a month ago, MCIR found.
Thirty plants across the country have closed for cleaning during the past two months, which has cut beef and pork production by 40%, the Daily Mail reported.
Most of those plants have since reopened after implementing safety measures, including on-site medical clinics, temperature screenings, plastic dividers between workers, and spacing out of workers.
Still, four of the reopened plants have seen new outbreaks that infected 700 employees, according to MCIR. They were a Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Tyson plants in Logansport, Indiana; Perry, Iowa; and Waterloo, Iowa.
And in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, COVID-19 cases linked to meat plants account for 18%, 20% and 29% of those states total cases, the Mail reported, citing the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy organization.
The shutdown of plants has decreased production, bringing a projection from CoBank this month that meat supplies could fall by 35% with prices rising by 20%, according to the Daily Mail.
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