Despite coronavirus outbreaks hitting meat and poultry packing plants hard in Virginia and several other states, President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order that would require the plants stay open.
On Tuesday the Associated Press reported that Trump said he would sign an order classifying meat processing as critical infrastructure to keep plants open. He stated that the order would address “liability problems” in the food supply chain.
The U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention deployed a team to Virginia in order to aid the outbreaks in infected poultry plants, according to WTOP. Gov. Ralph Northam, along with governors from Maryland and Delaware, sent a letter to Trump seeking assistance for the plants.
At a press conference on Monday, Northam explained that a team of epidemiologists and contact specialists were expected to arrive, in addition to speakers of Haitian Creole, the language spoken by many plant employees.
“The poultry plants are a vital part of our food supply chain…but the health of the people who work in these plants is also critically important,” said Northam in an NBC 12 interview.
The group will conduct an “overall assessment of the situation” and execute broader testing to “determine the scope of the problem,” the governor said.
Meatpacking is a huge industry in Virginia, including one of the nation’s largest chicken producers, Delmarva Poultry Inc. Virginia’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services lists 122 processing plants statewide that are inspected by the government.
While some poultry plants across Virginia have reported outbreaks, several have not, leading to concern from employees due to a lack of communication.
“Word of mouth was that maybe 10 or more cases up there, but us employees were only told about two cases,” said Kita Davis, a wing packer in Tysons Temperanceville Plant, in an interview with WHSV 3.
Accomack County, home to both the Tysons and the Perdue plants, recently experienced a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases last week, according to NBC12. However, the state nor the companies can publicly confirm cases in these facilities.