Smithfield pork plant in LA faces rolling Covid-19 outbreak

A coronavirus outbreak at the Farmer John pork processing plant in Los Angeles County that began nearly a year ago has been the focus of two state investigations. Cases at the Smithfield Foods-owned plant have more than doubled — with over 300 cases reported in January alone — as the county has become a Covid-19 epicenter, Leah Douglas and Georgia Gee report in FERN's latest story, produced in collaboration with the Covid-19 Reporting Project. » Read More

How a venerable soup kitchen in Portland, Maine, kept feeding the hungry as Covid-19 ravaged the city

In March 2020, Covid-19 forced the Preble Street soup kitchen in Portland, Maine, to close its dining room for the first time in 39 years. But, as Christian Letourneau reports in FERN's latest story, published with Eater, the soup kitchen staff went mobile, tracking and delivering meals and other services to the growing ranks of the hungry and homeless who scattered across the city as shelters and other aid operations shut down or restricted access. (No paywall) » Read More

With new Covid plan, Biden calls for OSHA to update workplace safety protections

The nation's top workplace safety enforcer, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, will explore issuing enforceable workplace safety standards to protect workers from the spread of Covid-19 as part of President Joe Biden's new pandemic strategy. Labor advocates and congressional Democrats have pushed for enforceable standards for the duration of the pandemic, arguing that the existing voluntary guidelines for employers don't go far enough to protect workers. » Subscribe

Meat plants tied to 6-8 percent of early Covid-19 cases

Livestock processing plants "may act as transmission vectors" for spreading the coronavirus, said researchers who estimated the plants were associated with from 6 to 8 percent of Covid-19 cases nationwide during the early months of the pandemic. "Ensuring both public health and robust essential supply chains may require an increase in meatpacking oversight and potentially a shift toward more decentralized, smaller-scale meat production," said the researchers in a paper appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. » Subscribe