As the Biden administration weighs workplace safety standards and seeks to deliver on its commitment to vaccinate all American adults within months, high priority must be given to vaccinating frontline meat and poultry workers and reaffirming protections that have successfully brought infection rates in the sector more than 80% below the general population.
North American Meat Institute (Meat Institute) President and CEO Julie Anna Potts commented:
"Frontline meat and poultry workers deserve immediate access to vaccines as they continue feeding Americans and keeping our farm economy working. The administration should commit to workers’ long-term safety, not create inflexible standards that could force facilities to decrease capacity utilization.”
According to data from the Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN), there were just 4.81 new reported cases per 100,000 meat and poultry workers per day in February 2021, compared with 26.15 cases per 100,000 people in the general U.S. population (New York Times).
Independent scientific research proves the effectiveness of COVID-19 prevention measures implemented in the sector since spring 2020. The University of Nebraska Medical Center found that the combination of universal masking and physical barriers reduced cases significantly in 62% of meat facilities studied. An analysis published in the Lancet in June 2020 found that distancing of 3 feet and using facemasks each reduce transmission by about 80%, and using eye protection reduces transmission by about 65%.
A February 2021 Meat Institute survey of more than 250 facilities employing more than 150,000 workers found COVID-19 protections implemented since spring 2020 include:
- COVID-19 hazard assessments; designated COVID-19 coordinators
- Entry screening measures and controls
- Increased sanitation and disinfection practices
- Training and education materials on COVID-19 symptoms and prevention, in multiple languages
- Mandatory face coverings
- Increase flexibility in leave policies
- Physical barriers in food production and other areas (e.g., break rooms, cafeterias)
Meat Institute members are committed to continuing these proven measures and providing support to vaccinate frontline meat and poultry workers quickly and safely.
Find more information on case rates, health and safety measures, and vaccination here.
Source: North American Meat Institute