A farm field in southwest Wisconsin on July 3, 2014. Credit: Darrell Hoemann, Investigate Midwest

For two years, data illuminating COVID-19 cases by business in Wisconsin was kept under wraps. After the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel requested the data, a powerful business lobby sued to prevent its disclosure. Last summer, the state supreme court ruled in the newspaper’s favor.

When Investigate Midwest requested data in 2021 showing outbreaks in food production facilities by date, it was denied because of the court case. But, last month, with the case resolved, the state fulfilled the request. 

The by-month data gives a clearer picture of how long food production facilities — including meatpacking plants — dealt with COVID-19. 

The data, through March of this year, shows consistent case counts in the industry throughout 2020 and summer 2021. A few sporadic cases were recorded throughout 2022, with the latest cases appearing this past November.

Few states in the Midwest appear to have tracked COVID-19 cases in specific industries by date. Investigate Midwest requested industry data by date from several Midwest states but was told the data wasn’t kept that way.

Type of work:

Analysis Based on factual reporting, although it Incorporates the expertise of the author/producer and may offer interpretations and conclusions.

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Sky Chadde, Investigate MidwestAssistant Editor/Senior Reporter

Sky Chadde has covered the agriculture industry for Investigate Midwest since 2019 and spent much of 2020 focused on the crisis of COVID-19 in meatpacking plants, which included collecting and analyzing...

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