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Hazelton has a population of about 30,000 people and more than 1,000 confirmed cases. It is one of the cities with the highest infection rate per capita.The infection rate in this city is twice that of New York City and 12 times higher than the overall infection rate in Pennsylvania.
After the worker took a sick job and reported physical discomfort, the factory nurse found that the temperature of the worker did not exceed 38 degrees Celsius through body temperature measurement, and told the worker to continue to work.
The federal government and the state government are not active in the supervision and inspection of meat processing factories, so that the local government has organized an action team to inspect the factories.
Previously, we would think that the machine did not need to rest at all.Today, we believe that machines will not be infected with new coronaviruses.Perhaps, the era of robots is coming.
Editor’s note: The epidemic of new coronavirus continues to spread in the United States.During the spread of the epidemic, many meat processing plants have become “severely hit areas.”Why would a meat processing plant become a breeding ground for new coronavirus?This article from Bloomberg, the original title is Cold, Crowded, Deadly: How US Meat Plants Became a Virus Breeding Ground, the author Peter Waldman, Lydia Mulvany and Polly Mosendz introduced the story behind this.
JBS USA, the second-largest beef and pork processing producer in the United States, has more than 3,000 workers in its Cactus, Texas plant.According to three workers at the factory, a worker suspected of being infected with the new coronavirus took sick leave to go home, but it was not until nine days later that the worker’s virus test was positive before the factory informed the employees of the truth.But at that time, many workers were already ill.However, for more than a week, the factory manager has been denying the authenticity of the serious outbreak in the factory, and also warned sick workers not to discuss their diagnosis in private.
Juan Manuel Jaime.Image source: Jamie family
According to Anthony Germain, on April 5th, his wife developed fever symptoms (he is not a JBS employee, but because his wife and other family members work in the factory, in order to protect them, he asked not to disclose themName).After a few days, Gilman’s wife still had symptoms of vomiting, but no fever.Therefore, a nurse at JBS told her that she could go back to work in the factory.
On April 10, Gilman’s wife tested positive for the new crown virus.According to Gilman, a plant manager later called and told her not to share her confirmed diagnosis with other workers.At that time, Gilman heard the content of the phone and was immediately angry at the factory’s blatant violation of the epidemic management measures.
“I will never help them to hide from the sky,” Gilman said. “They don’t want to cause panic and fear in the factory, but this is already a fact, and they can no longer keep other workers in the dark.”
JBS spokesman Nikki Richardson (Nikki Richardson) said that the company did not require any employees to remain silent about the diagnosis of the new coronavirus.She also mentioned that employees with related symptoms will go home and rest, and the company has not asked any employees to work with illness.
According to the Texas Department of Health, 243 confirmed cases were associated with JBS’s factory in Cocketts, which made the suburbs of Moore County a severely affected area in the state.
On the day of Easter on April 12, 28-year-old Juan Manuel Jaime died of new coronavirus and related complications.He was one of two people who died of the new coronavirus in his factory.Jamie ’s aunt, Sandra Guzman, said that Jamie had been working in the JBS factory for nearly two weeks, and his supervisor did not allow him to see a doctor and asked him to work.
After finishing work on Good Friday (April 10 this year), Jamie’s parents found him lying in bed the next night, unconscious.Jamie died four hours after moving to the intensive care unit in Amarillo, a city in northwest Texas.
After Jamie’s death, his parents were diagnosed with the new coronavirus.His father was also hospitalized for a week.Richardson said that before Jamie died, JBS did not know that Jamie had been infected with the new coronavirus, and the factory also took a series of measures, including increasing fever screening equipment, increasing social distance, and providing employees with moreProtective equipment to effectively prevent the epidemic.
Hazelton has a population of about 30,000 people, and the number of new coronavirus confirmed cases has exceeded 1,000, making it one of the cities with the highest per capita infection rate.The infection rate in this city is twice that of New York City and 12 times higher than the overall infection rate in Pennsylvania.
For the spread of the New Crown epidemic in Hazelton, Cargill’s sole responsibility is not on it.In addition to the outbreak of the Cargill plant, there are also warehouses, several processing plants including the Mission Foods corn processing plant, and Amazon’s order fulfillment center.
Hazelton is located in an anthracite producing area 130 miles (about 210 kilometers) west of New York.In 2000, the local government of Hazelton adopted a preferential tax relief policy, which attracted Cargill to settle here.
Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota’s largest city, Cargill is the world’s largest agricultural trader and the largest private company in the United States.According to financial data released by Cargill, in 2019, Cargill’s total revenue was 113.5 billion US dollars, and net profit was 2.6 billion US dollars.Cargill’s Meat Products Division has 36 factories throughout North America and a total of 28,000 employees.
Cargill’s factory in Hazelton mainly processes beef and pork into individual packages that can be sold directly before being shipped to Wal-Mart and other East Coast stores.
Cargill’s factory in Hazleton soon became the largest private employer in the area and also attracted many low-skilled workers from Dominican families like Benjamin.Among them, many workers specifically moved to Hazleton from New York and New Jersey.
From 2000 to 2010, Hazleton’s Latino population increased sevenfold, and the proportion of the population increased from 37% to more than 60% today.These unionized workers earn an average of US $ 500 to US $ 700 per week, which is also the industry average.In addition, they have overtime pay, and some health and vacation benefits.In general, it is not difficult to live a decent life in Hazelton.
Since mid-March, when the new crown virus swept through the factory and the entire Hazleton area, even though panic spread throughout the city, Cargill did not disclose any information.Cargill’s silence makes more and more workers feel uneasy, and more and more healthy employees also choose to stay at home instead of going to work.
“Why didn’t 130 of the confirmed cases appear in the factory to disclose this information? Who is making this decision?” Robert Curry, co-founder of the Hazelton Integration Project, questioned, “Who should bear this moral responsibility? ”
Robert Curry and his wife Elaine.Image source: Danna Singer for Bloomberg Businessweek
Sullivan said that the fact that there are confirmed cases of new coronavirus inside the factory, Cargill has always maintained an open, transparent and honest attitude towards local public health officials and regulators.He also mentioned that after acquiring China’s experience in fighting the epidemic, Cargill implemented fever screening and other “best practice” protection measures in its factories in North America very early.
According to Aaron Humes, the general manager of the Cargill Hazelton plant, as early as March 3, Cargill began to spread the importance of maintaining social distances and other protective measures to all workers and employees.However, according to interviews with 32 front-line workers, supervisors and nurses did not pay attention to the harmfulness of the virus, told employees with symptoms but no fever to take acetaminophen and continue to work, and even ordered them not to discuss privately why there are workersSuddenly did not come to work.
At least 10 workers said that their supervisors or medical staff still told them to return to work after they knew they were sick.An 8-year-old veteran who claimed to be Annabelle said that she was working sick during the week of March 16.She also claimed that the director of the beef department ignored her report of physical discomfort, and the factory nurse prescribed her paracetamol, and then saw that her temperature did not exceed the temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit after being infected with the new coronavirus guided by the CDC.(38 degrees Celsius) standard, told her to continue to work.
Annabel also claimed that she accidentally overheard the conversation between her supervisor and the nurse, saying that there were always workers who said that she was sick, and he was “bored”.Later, Annabel was so weak that she could not stand, but she still insisted on working on the production line because she did not want to cause bad records due to unexcused absenteeism.
“Every time I cough, there are other workers in front of me and around me.” Annabel said. “All the workers are sick.” On March 24, Annabel’s new coronavirus test was positive.
According to Hums, on March 25, Cargill Hazelton’s factory began screening symptomatic employees at the entrance.Two days ago, the factory announced the first confirmed case.According to Benjamin’s son, on April 3 (the day before Benjamin took sick leave), Benjamin told the nurse at the factory entrance that he had a dry cough and felt unwell, but because his body temperature was lower than 38 degrees Celsius at that time, the nurse still letHe entered the factory.
Benjamin was not the only worker who was banned from wearing masks in the factory.Three other workers also claimed that their supervisor told them that they should not wear masks in the factory.As for why, there are many opinions.Some say that only those who are ill should wear masks, others say that masks are in short supply and should be given priority to medical workers, and others are saying that one week before Benjamin ’s death: wearing masks can cause panic among others.
According to Sullivan, Cargill has “very clearly” informed employees that they should not come to the factory if they are unwell or have been diagnosed with new coronavirus.Cargill has no corresponding punishment for unexcused absenteeism.At the same time, if affected by the epidemic and unable to go to work, Cargill also provides employees with up to 80 hours of paid leave.
Humus said he could not confirm whether Benjamin or other workers were told not to wear masks.”I don’t know who is going to give such an order.” Homs said.He also mentioned that Cargill headquarters has formulated relevant safety instructions based on the CDC’s guidance and recommendations, and the factory is fully implementing the safety instructions established by the headquarters.
Cargill’s factory in Hazelton.Image source: Danna Singer for Bloomberg Businessweek
Before April, the CDC did not issue specific recommendations for wearing masks for food and other core infrastructure companies.Since the outbreak of swine flu in 2009, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (US Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has issued pandemic guidance recommendations for employers that have not been updated.On March 9, in response to the outbreak of the new crown epidemic, the agency reissued this guidance.It is mentioned that employers should provide employees with masks to “limit the spread of respiratory secretions from suspected patients with new coronavirus”.
According to Homs, since April 3, Cargill began to distribute masks to employees at the Hazelton plant.This move was 12 days earlier than the state’s mandatory requirement for workers to wear masks at work.”We took protective measures in advance before the outbreak broke out,” Homs said.
Not long ago, the second case of infection at the Cargill Hazelton factory passed away.Obviously, the patient was infected with the new coronavirus before the plant was shut down.Since resuming work on April 20, workers wear masks every day at work, and glass screens have been installed on the production line to separate them from each other.In addition, the factory also measures employees’ body temperature twice a day.For employees whose body temperature exceeds 37.8 degrees Celsius, the nurse will follow up to understand related health issues.
Before the pandemic, the Hazelton plant has not yet been inspected by relevant government departments.According to rumors, many factories in this area have epidemic problems, and employees have also poured into local hospitals.
After waiting for a month, the local government still did not wait for the presence of relevant inspectors from the federal or state government.Therefore, local government officials formed a local action team to carry out inspections.
In April, local inspectors completed a total of 138 inspections.Since the Cargill Hazelton plant was closed for half a month in April, the inspectors have not yet inspected the plant.
According to Dan Guydish, executive director of the Mountain Council of Governments, a member of the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce, when the Cargill plant resumed work on April 20,Local officials were a bit caught off guard.
However, Gedish said that since the factory resumed work, they have not received any complaints against Cargill.Sullivan said that Cargill has been actively cooperating with state officials and the business community to ensure the safety of its employees and the entire Hazleton.
The per capita consumption of American meat products is higher than that of any other developed countries except Argentina, which is 50% higher than the per capita consumption of Canada and more than double the per capita consumption of the EU.One of the reasons why the per capita consumption of American meat products is so high is that the cost of industrial agriculture, meat and poultry in the United States is at least 20% lower than in most European countries.”The major companies are fighting the price war to provide consumers with the cheapest meat products.” Wadiak said.
The closure of meat processing plants has led to a surge in meat prices.On May 4, the wholesale price of beef reached a record high, which was more than double the wholesale price of beef in February.The price of pork has reached its highest record since 2014 (the year when a large number of young pigs were slaughtered by the deadly swine virus).
Bob Brown, an independent market consultant in Edmond, Oklahoma, predicts that for seven consecutive weeks, U.S. meat supply has fallen by 28%, which is equivalent to a reduction of 500 million pounds in production..Some pig farms and poultry farmers have to euthanize pigs and chickens instead of keeping them awaiting the resumption of the slaughterhouse which is unlikely to be realistic in the near future.
“The protein market is undoubtedly the most unstable and unpredictable market I have ever seen,” said Heather Jones, an equity analyst at financial analysis firm Heather Jones Research.
Although Trump ’s executive order may keep these meat processing plants in operation, it cannot force sick or worried workers to return to the production line.On April 30, Minister of Agriculture Bodu said that even after the meat processing plant resumed, the shortage of meat products would still be as high as 15%.
The slaughterhouse has been trying to lobby members of Congress for allowing them to speed up production and sales for many years, but it has been boycotted by labor supporters, saying this behavior is too dangerous.In addition, the addresses of many food safety experts have been met, saying that this behavior may lead to the slaughter of more animals that do not meet health standards.Therefore, in order to cope with the sudden decrease in the number of workers in the factory and at the same time to meet the requirements for maintaining social distance, these slaughterhouses may be forced to keep running at a low speed for the next few months, or even years.Animal farmers may have to continue to slaughter herds properly to maintain higher meat prices.
Now, for meat processing factories, if they want to keep the factory running normally, they should abide by higher safety standards.However, if you are a worker in these factories, then you might think, if your personal health no longer affects or harms the surrounding groups, will these preventive measures continue?What happens after that?
Maybe the era of robots is here.Many industry experts say that after the crisis, meat processing plants are likely to make up their minds to solve the labor problem once and for all by introducing automated machinery and equipment.
“We used to say that machines don’t need to rest at all.” Said Steve Meyer, an economist at Kerns & Associates, an Ames risk management agency in Iowa, “Now, this sentenceThe words may have to be changed, the machine will not be infected with the new coronavirus. ”
Further reading: How has the US meat processing plant become a “breeding ground” for the new coronavirus?(on)
Translator: Junyi

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