ByRachel Axon, Kyle Bagenstose and Kevin Crowe, USA TODAY; Sky Chadde, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
USA TODAY and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting spent five months piecing together the pivotal moments in the Triumph Foods outbreak, interviewing more than a dozen current and former workers and examining thousands of pages of government records.
BySky Chadde, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, Kyle Bagenstose and Rachel Axon USA TODAY |
Even as thousands of their employees fell ill with COVID-19, meatpacking executives pressured federal regulators to help keep their plants open, according to a trove of emails obtained by USA TODAY and The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.
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.
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.
ByHuiqi Xu, Maureen Strode and Andrew Withers/For the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
Although the meat and poultry processing industry’s injury rate has been dropping for years, it remains higher than average for manufacturing, and vast numbers of injuries never get reported in the first place, according to a 2016 report from the Government Accountability Office.