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The number of coronavirus cases continues to rise at meatpacking plants across the country in the month since Donald Trump signed an executive order forcing plants to reopen.

On April 28, when Trump issued the order, the number of cases stood at roughly 4,000, according to data compiled by the nonprofit Food and Environment Reporting Network. On Friday, the organization reported that at least 20,033 meatpacking workers had confirmed coronavirus cases — a four-fold increase in a month. At least 70 of those workers have died from the pandemic.


Meatpacking plants continue to be virus hotspots. An analysis published on Thursday found that rural counties that include meatpacking plants experience COVID-19 outbreaks have coronavirus infection rates that are five times higher than the average for all rural communities.

Rural counties where meatpacking plants have had outbreaks have an average of 1,100 confirmed coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, compared to just 209 cases per 100,000 residents of rural counties without plants. Of the 14 rural counties with the highest coronavirus infection rates, 10 contain meatpacking plants that have had outbreaks.

In early April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was notified about several outbreaks at plants in various states. But Trump pushed workers to return to plants later that month April in spite of the continued threat to their health.

On the day he issued the executive order, Trump said he was focused on protecting the owners of meatpacking plants, saying his order would "solve any liability problems where they had certain liability problems," at plants.

Shortly after the order was issued, on May 8, a CDC report found that "structural and operational practices that made it difficult to maintain a 6-foot (2-meter) distance while working" at meatpacking plants.

Meatpacking workers are not the only ones to see an increase in coronavirus cases over the past month.

According to the data from the Food and Environment Reporting Network, there were a total of 4,330 confirmed coronavirus cases among meatpacking, food-processing, and farmworkers the day Trump signed the executive order. A month later, FERN reported 22,382 of those workers had confirmed cases

Nationwide, 1,730,200 people have confirmed coronavirus cases as of Friday morning, and at least 101,600 people have died, according to the New York Times.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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