N.C. has 23 meat processing plants with COVID-19 outbreaks, more than 1,300 cases

Updated: May. 12, 2020 at 1:11 PM EDT
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MORGANTON, N.C. (WBTV) - There are now COVID-19 outbreaks at 23 North Carolina meat processing plants, with 1,340 total positive cases at those plants, according to NCDHHS.

Officials would not specify the names of the companies or detail numbers for every plant or county. However, some of the reported outbreaks are in the WBTV area.

An “outbreak" is when a facility has at least two confirmed cases.

NCDHHS reports outbreaks at meat processing plants in the following counties:

  • Bertie
  • Bladen
  • Burke
  • Chatham
  • Duplin
  • Lee
  • Lenoir
  • Richmond
  • Sampson
  • Surry
  • Union
  • Wilkes
  • Wilson

Burke County has only one meat processing facility - the Case Farms chicken plant.

Several employees at the Tyson Foods meat processing plant in Wilkesboro tested positive for coronavirus in late April, the town announced on its website.

The town didn’t say how many employees tested positive, but did say that employees whom the infected individuals have come into contact with were instructed to self-isolate.

On the same day, President Donald Trump took executive action to order meat processing plants to stay open amid concerns over growing coronavirus cases and the impact on the nation’s food supply.

The order uses the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing as critical infrastructure to try to prevent a shortage of chicken, pork and other meat on supermarket shelves.

Unions fired back, saying the White House was jeopardizing lives and prioritizing cold cuts over workers’ health.

Across the country, food processing plants were closing because of COVID-19 outbreaks. Tyson Foods chairman John H. Tyson put out an ad in papers like the New York Times saying that “millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain” and “there will be a limited supply of products available in grocery stores.”

The United Food and Commercial Workers say about a quarter of the country’s pork production and 10 percent of its beef output has now been shuttered.

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