WASHINGTON — The latest analysis of independent data reveals that COVID-19 infection rates among meat and poultry workers are more than five times lower than in the general U.S. population, 95% lower than peak case rates in the sector from May 2020.
According to data from the Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN), the meat and poultry sector was reported to have an average of just 4.81 new reported cases per 100,000 workers per day in February 2021, compared with 26.15 cases per 100,000 people in the general U.S. population (New York Times).
Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts commented:
“Nearly one year after the first reported COVID-19 cases in the sector, we are grateful that comprehensive measures instituted since spring 2020 continue to protect our dedicated workers. Vaccination supplies have so far been limited, but we urge the federal and state governments to rapidly expand vaccine access for the long-term protection of the 500,000 men and women who keep food on Americans’ tables and our farm economy working.”
Meat Institute members have implemented multi-layered COVID-19 prevention measures that meet or exceed public health guidance and which independent research confirms significantly reduce COVID-19 transmission.
The University of Nebraska Medical Center found that the combination of universal masking and physical barriers reduced cases significantly in 62% of meat facilities studied. An analysis published in the Lancet in June 2020 found that distancing of 3 feet and using facemasks each reduce transmission by about 80%, and using eye protection reduces transmission by about 65%.
Key measures implemented in facilities include:
- Using entry screening measures and controls;
- Using face coverings and other personal protective equipment;
- Increasing physical distancing and reduced gathering points through measures such as altered traffic patterns, additional break/eating spaces, staggered shifts and breaks;
- Installing physical barriers in food production and other spaces (e.g., break rooms, cafeterias) where physical distancing is not feasible;
- Increasing sanitation and disinfection practices, additional cleaning staff;
- Enhancing air sanitation and ventilation;
- Training and education materials on COVID-19 symptoms and prevention, often in multiple languages; and
- Increasing flexibility in leave policies.
Meat Institute members are committed to continuing these proven measures and providing their support to vaccinate frontline meat and poultry workers quickly and safely. Many can even assist in vaccine distribution for all Americans.
Find more information on case rates, health and safety measures, and vaccination here.
The North American Meat Institute is the leading voice for the meat and poultry industry. The Meat Institute’s members process the vast majority of U.S. beef, pork, lamb, and poultry, as well as manufacture the equipment and ingredients needed to produce the safest and highest quality meat and poultry products.