Iowa’s Meatpacking Plant Outbreaks Rank No. 1 In The Nation


by Elizabeth Meyer, Iowa Starting Line 

May 14th, 2020


Iowa Starting Line is an independently-owned progressive news outlet devoted to providing unique, insightful coverage on Iowa news and politics.


At least eight meatpacking plants in Iowa have many confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, putting the state No. 1 in its rate of meat industry-related infections, according to a new analysis.


Environmental Working Group (EWG) dove into data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and found, as of May 6, Iowa had 1,784 meatpacking workers infected by the novel coronavirus, the highest number in the country. Nebraska also has confirmed eight outbreaks at meatpacking plants with 1,263 workers testing positive for COVID-19.


EWG’s investigation, published Thursday, found “counties with or near meatpacking plants have almost twice the rate of known COVID-19 infections as the national average.”


Its analysis found counties that have a meatpacking plant, or are within 15 miles of one or more, reported 373 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents compared to the national average of 199 cases per 100,000.


“EWG’s analysis dramatically quantifies a fact attested to by news reports from across the nation: Meatpacking plants, along with prisons and senior living facilities, are the hottest hot spots for COVID-19 infections,” the report states.


That has proven true in Iowa, where a majority of COVID-19 infections and deaths have occurred in meatpacking plants and long-term care facilities.


Gov. Kim Reynolds said today 57% of Iowa’s COVID-19 deaths have occurred among residents of long-term care facilities. EWG’s analysis show 18% of the state’s positive cases come from meatpacking employees.


As the Trump Administration instructs meatpacking plants to remain open during the pandemic, Democrats have insisted workers be equipped with adequate personal protective equipment in order to perform their duties safely.


“As Iowans we have to take care of each other — the people that are working at our processing facilities, growing our food, working at our hospitals and care centers are all essential,” said Patty Judge, chair of Focus on Rural America. “These are our friends and neighbors and it is terribly wrong to not do everything humanly possible to protect their lives.”


EWG’s analysis cites eight Iowa meatpacking plants with known cases of COVID-19 as of May 6:


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