Meatpacking workers and their employers are pushing to the front of the line for coronavirus vaccinations as state governments roll out their distribution plans to combat the pandemic, according to Bloomberg Law.
President-elect Joe Biden‘s administration is pushing to implement an emergency temporary standard that would compel most American workplaces to develop Covid safety protocols in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the meatpacking industry — where workers still don’t maintain the recommended six-foot social distance — will face particular scrutiny after a series of large-scale infections.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited several meat companies for failure to separate workers. The Food and Environment Reporting Network estimates at least 53,620 meatpacking workers have tested positive for Covid-19 and 269 have died as of Jan. 15.
With an executive order by former President Donald Trump compelling plants to remain open to sustain the nation’s food supply, industry and safety professionals are weighing how soon workers can be inoculated and when an emergency standard can be mandated.
The nation’s meatpacking heavyweights, including Tyson Foods Inc., JBS SA, and Cargill Inc., are driving to vaccinate their employees quickly, partnering with medical experts and union representatives in the meantime.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, the nation’s biggest union for meatpacking workers, and the North American Meat Institute pressed all 50 U.S. governors to give meat and poultry workers “very high priority” for vaccinations in a Dec. 23 letter.