WASHINGTON — New interim guidelines have been released to help protect those working in meatpacking and processing plants during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The interim guidelines from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Center for Disease Control and Prevention come after plants in Indiana and across the nation were forced to closed due to outbreaks.
While the meat products employees handle don't expose them to COVID-19, working in close contact with other employees could contribute to potential exposures, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Information on cleaning shared tools, screening employees before they enter facilities, managing workers who have symptoms, implementing appropriate engineering, administrative, and work practice controls, personal protective equipment, and ways to practice social distancing, are included in the interim guidelines. You can read them here.
“As essential workers, those in the meatpacking and processing industries need to be protected from coronavirus for their own safety and health,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt, in the release. “OSHA’s newest guidance document outlines steps employers can take to provide a safe and healthy workplace for workers in the meatpacking and processing industries.”
Facilities developing plans to continue working should work with state and local public health officials and occupational safety and health professionals, use aspects of CDC guidance, and use guidance from other authorities or regulatory bodies as needed, according to the CDC.
In Logansport, the Tyson Fresh Meats plant is temporarily closed while its 2,200 employees are tested for the virus.
It's not clear how many employees tested positive for the virus, but at least 586 people in Cass County, where the plant is located, have tested positive for the virus, according to data released Sunday by the Indiana State Department of Health. At least 707 people in the county have been tested for the virus.
On Friday, Indiana Packers, a pork processing plant in Delphi, announced it was temporarily closing due to concerns of the virus.
At least 13 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Carroll County, where the plant is located, according to data released Sunday by the Indiana State Department of Health. At least 143 people in the county have been tested for the virus.
Outbreaks of the virus have been reported at meat plants in at least seven states, according to ABC News.
Family members and others connected to employees at the Smithfield facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, are now reporting they have the virus, Taneeza Islam, the executive director for South Dakota Voices for Peace, told ABC News.
"The ripple effect into the community is severe," Islam said.
An estimated 10 meatpacking workers and three food processing workers have died due to COVID-19, according to a press release Thursday from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.