North Carolina records show scope of pandemic in meat plants

During the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, the outbreak was far worse at several North Carolina meatpacking plants than was previously known and had spread to previously undisclosed facilities, documents released in a public records request show.

“At the height of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of positive cases at 10 North Carolina meatpacking plants was 75 percent higher than reported publicly,” according to FERN’s latest story, written by Leah Douglas, Derek R. Kravitz, and Georgia M. Gee.

The story was produced in collaboration with the Documenting Covid-19 Project at the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, where Kravitz and Gee work.

“As of mid-June, the documents show that nearly 2,000 workers were sick at the 10 facilities owned by companies like Tyson Foods and Pilgrim’s Pride, about 800 more than reported in the media or by public health officials. The 10 were just a portion of the 29 meat plants that, the records show, had active infections at the time.”

In addition, the records reveal outbreaks at 12 meatpacking facilities that had not been previously disclosed by health department documents.