The USDA created the Food Box program to help feed families struggling during the pandemic. A review by the Midwest Center shows that some program contractors were expected to work in a new field or with new products they weren’t used to handling.
ByDylan Tiger, Isaiah Baba, Daria Makhneva and Samantha Boyle / Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
As Covid-19 surges again in the U.S., the high percentage of “recovered” cases might be cited as a sign that a vast majority of those infected quickly rid themselves of the virus.
But the “recovered” statistics are incomplete, inconsistent and call into question the accuracy of any total number of recovered cases, according to a review of 50 state public health sites by the Midwest Center for Investigative reporting.
Although they make up about 60 percent of all meatpacking workers in the U.S., people of color account for about 90 percent of those infected, according to federal data released this week. The companies did not follow the federal guidance that would have mitigated the virus’s spread among its minority workforce, according to the complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“When the pandemic first started, and we were just beginning to hear information about the impact on farmworkers, we knew it was coming,” Partida says. “You just knew that it was going to get worse and worse and worse.”
Covid-19 could hamper the EPA’s ability to inform communities of health risks, according to a report released this month from the agency’s Office of Inspector General. Specifically, the inspector general’s office worried the EPA might not be able to inform residents who live near facilities with emissions that could cause cancer. In a separate report from late March, the office urged EPA to take “prompt action” to inform communities. As of the March report, the EPA and state agencies had not met with or reached out to residents around 16 of the 25 “high-priority” facilities, which are located primarily around cities in the South and Midwest. The June report detailed other concerns, including personnel shortages and cutbacks to routine inspections.
ByRachel Axon USA TODAY, Sky Chadde, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Since the executive order, COVID-19 cases tied to meatpacking plants have skyrocketed from fewer than 5,000 at the time to more than 25,000 as of this week, according to tracking from the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. Rather than protecting workers, a half dozen experts and advocates said, the federal government is failing them.
ByJoey Birrittier/For Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
It began in mid-March when the new coronavirus became part of ordinary American life with shortages of household products like hand sanitizer, toilet paper and paper towels. Now, as May has turned to June, scarcity – and the fear of it -- is all about the meat.
As of June 6, there have been at least 20,400 reported positive cases tied to meatpacking facilities in at least 216 plants in 33 states, and at least 74 reported worker deaths, according to a Midwest Center analysis.
ByCynthia Voelkl/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Back in March, the coronavirus started triggering infection hotspots in and around meatpacking plants, sickening and killing workers. As local public health authorities pushed giant meat conglomerates to close infected facilities, industry executives warned that doing so was “pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,” as Kenneth M. Sullivan, CEO of Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer, declared in a April 12 press release.