US President Donald Trump earlier this week issued an executive order instructing the Department of Agriculture to ensure that meat and poultry plants can continue operating.
The executive order was issued following reports that none than 3,000 meat processing workers across the country have tested positive for the virus in recent weeks, leading to additional spread in their communities, and more than 15 have died.
As a result, dozens of facilities have been forced to close temporarily or indefinitely.
Executives at America’s largest meat and poultry processing companies warned of disastrous consequences for consumers should these facilities stay closed.
According to the head of Tyson Foods John Tyson the “food supply chain is breaking.”
The President’s executive order applies to plants that have already closed and stated that the federal government will also provide workers with additional protective gear and guidance.
Meanwhile - the Centers for Disease Control and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued interim guidance for meat and poultry processing workplaces.
Noting that meat and poultry processing workers must often work close to each other over 10-12 hour periods, the government suggested changes to processing lines so that workers "are at least six feet apart in all directions (e.g., side-to-side and when facing one another), when possible."
Among other measures, the guidance also suggested realigning workstations so that workers aren't facing each other and also putting up signs to remind workers to remain apart during work and practice social distancing during their breaks.