Nurses took to the streets of Delaware last week to call for the closure of slaughterhouses.
The event, organized by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine – a nonprofit with more than 12,000 doctor members – also involved dietitians and residents who protested outside the state capital building, urging Governor John Carney to shut the facilities on health grounds.
Throughout the demonstration, during which they followed social distancing protocols, they brandished signs saying ‘Support Workers, Close Meat Plants’, ‘Meat Worsens Diabetes and Blood Pressure’, and ‘Cholesterol Is Not Essential’.
The meat industry has made headlines in recent weeks after a top analyst branded U.S. meatpacking facilities ‘COVID-19 hotpots’ as infection levels within the facilities have outpaced the rest of the country.
According to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, which has been compiling data of the positive cases and deaths, as of May 19, there have been at least 15,000 reported positive cases tied to meatpacking facilities in at least 192 plants in 32 states, and at least 63 reported worker deaths at 31 plants in 18 states.
Karen Smith, RD, CDE, said that reports of worker’s deaths are ‘piling up’ – with more than 15,000 workers becoming infected with COVID-19. She added: “Keeping Delaware meat plants open is harming the health of workers, the surrounding community, and consumers.”
Neal Barnard, MD, FACC, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, wrote to Governor Carney calling on him, and the governors of all 50 states, to order the closure of all meat and poultry processing plants across America.
He said that plant workers who are asymptomatic ‘may still be viral carriers’ and that because these workers directly handle meat and poultry products, and because the COVID-19 virus is easily airborne, ‘transmission of the virus to the products they handle is likely, which means transmission of the virus into people’s homes is likely’.
The organization adds that as workers are lined up in close proximity, viruses are easily spread within the slaughterhouse environment. “Although studies show that infectious viruses easily survive during refrigeration and freezing, meat companies do not routinely test the extent to which meat products are contaminated with the virus.”