U.S. Labor Dept. Announces New Safety Guidance For Meatpacking Plants

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The Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Iowa.
The guidance comes after many plants were forced to close after workers fell ill with the coronavirus.

The U.S. Labor Department is issuing new guidance for meatpacking workers amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The guidance, issued jointly with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says employees should be spaced at least six feet apart from each other, must wear face coverings, and must be screened daily before working.

Many meat processing facilities have been hot spots for the spread of the coronavirus, with more than 5,000 workers infected with COVID-19 and at least 13 dead. The pork industry has endured the brunt of the impact, as three of the country's largest processing plants have shut down indefinitely. They are Smithfield Foods, JBS pork processing and Tyson Foods. Combined, they account for approximately 15% of all pork production in the U.S.

Tyson Foods shut down several other plants as workers called out sick and production slowed. Tyson warns if their facilities can't open soon, there will be a meat shortage in grocery stores nationwide. The company took out a full page advertisement in the New York Times Sunday saying the food supply chain is breaking and farmers don't have anywhere to sell their livestock. That could lead to the "depopulation," or unnecessary slaughter, of millions of chickens, pigs and cattle.

Multiple farms in Delaware and Maryland will also be depopulating millions of chickens as the virus hobbles processing plants.

Contains footage from CNN.