There are more COVID-19 cases and deaths in counties that have a meatpacking plant, according to analyses conducted by two universities and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.
Those counties had 51 to 75 per cent more cases and 37 to 56 per cent more deaths than the baseline, revealed the research which traced all COVID-19 cases up to July 21.
They concluded that meatpacking plant workers likely carried the virus into the surrounding communities.
Researchers from Columbia University and the University of Chicago estimated that "excess COVID-19 infections and deaths" related to U.S. meatpacking plants amounted to between 236,000 and 310,000 COVID-19 - i.e. six to eight per cent of total cases - and between 4,300 and 5,200 deaths – I.e. three to four per cent of total cases.
The "vast majority" of COVID-19 illnesses and deaths occurred among people not working at livestock plants, they reported, but data suggest that in areas where a meatpacking plant is located, community spread is markedly higher.
The researchers also found that lower rates of COVID-19 case growth followed temporary closures of high-risk plants, and that smaller, decentralized facilities do not appear to contribute to transmission.
However, the analysis indicated that meat processing plants with U.S. Department of Agriculture approvals to operate at higher production line speeds appeared to more be associated with more county-wide cases.