Report: At least 59,000 meat workers caught COVID, 269 died

Virus Outbreak Meatpacking

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — At least 59,000 meatpacking workers caught COVID-19 and 269 workers died when the virus tore through the industry last year, which is significantly more than previously thought, according to a new U.S. House report released Wednesday.

The meatpacking industry was one of the early epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic, with workers standing shoulder-to-shoulder along production lines. The U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which examined internal documents from five of the biggest meatpacking companies, said companies could have done more to protect their workers.

The new estimate of infections in the industry is nearly three times higher than the 22,400 that the United Food and Commercial Workers Union has said were infected or exposed. And the true number could be even higher because the companies' data didn't generally include coronavirus cases confirmed by outside testing or self reported by employees.

At the height of the outbreaks in the spring of 2020, U.S. meatpacking production fell to about 60% of normal as several major plants