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Coronavirus Cases Are Breaking Out In Meat Processing Plants — But How Many Remains Unclear

Workers cutting meat
U.S. Government Accountability Office
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Meat processing facilities have been a source of coronavirus outbreaks in North Carolina. But the number of cases and the facilities they have occurred in remains uncertain.

Meat processing facilities in North Carolina have seen coronavirus outbreaks among their workers, disrupting supply chains and causing concerns about meat shortages. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services told a North Carolina news collaborative on Tuesday that there are 2,146 cases in 28 outbreaks at meat processing facilities. 

But the exact number of cases and the identity of plants that experienced the outbreaks remains unclear. NCDHHS does not require meatpacking facilities to disclose cases of COVID-19, relying instead on voluntary reporting that the department has been reluctant to share with the public. In a press briefing earlier this month, NCDHHS secretary Mandy Cohen told reporters to “stay tuned” for more information about these outbreaks.

WUNC’s data reporter Jason deBruyn is part of the statewide news collaborative that has been reaching out to the state and local health departments to get a clearer picture of the number of cases. Host Anita Rao talks with deBruyn about the why the data has not been released to the public and the implications this has for worker safety and the supply chain.

Kaia Findlay is a producer for Embodied, WUNC's weekly, live talk show on health, sex and relationships. Kaia first joined the WUNC team in 2020 as a producer for The State of Things.
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a live, weekly radio show and seasonal podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.
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