Despite Worker Death Increase, Trump Orders Meat Plants To Stay Open
President Donald Trump ordered meat-processing plants to continue running on Tuesday night, saying they’re critical as the nation deals with food supply disruptions.
Meatpacking plants, however, have been hit hard by the coronavirus. With employees working side-by-side in dangerous conditions, many have contracted the virus. Twenty workers have died from the coronavirus (COVID-19) and another 6,500 have been infected according to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
The UFCW also said that at least 22 plants have closed because of employees testing positive for the virus.
Trump is using the Defense Production Act to ensure these companies stay open despite infections and deaths rising.
“Such closures threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain, undermining critical infrastructure during the national emergency,” the order says. “Given the high volume of meat and poultry processed by many facilities, any unnecessary closures can quickly have a large effect on the food supply chain.”
Economists said that meat options at the supermarket would decrease starting next month if plants continue to shut down. Trump, however, denies any worry of food shortage. “There’s plenty of supply,” he told the media on Tuesday. “It’s distribution.”
The president also directed Sonny Perdue, the Secretary of Agriculture, to “take all appropriate action” to make sure meat companies stay open.
Trump’s order did not add any additional precautions for companies to protect workers. Instead of issuing its own rules, the Agriculture Department has deferred to the CDC and OSHA.