Covid-19 is worst in persistently poor rural counties

Throughout the pandemic, the highest Covid-19 case rates and the lowest vaccination rates in the country have been found in persistently poor rural counties, the USDA said Wednesday in its annual Rural America at a Glance report. Those counties have also had low unemployment rates, suggesting residents continued to work despite the risk of infection by the coronavirus, said the report. » Subscribe

New study adds to mounting evidence that farmworkers suffer higher rates of Covid-19

The rate of Covid-19 infection among farmworkers in California’s Salinas Valley was four times higher than in the rest of the local population, according to a new study published by JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association. Based on a survey of more than a thousand workers done between July and November 2020, the study described a strong correlation between high rates of infection and the conditions that farmworkers face in their day-to-day lives, including overcrowded housing and a lack of workplace benefits like paid medical leave.(No paywall) » Read More

Q&A: Yolanda Soto says Covid-19 helped boost the market for imperfect produce

The Covid-19 pandemic upended the food supply chain in 2020, but massive quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables from Mexico kept flowing into the border town of Nogales, Arizona. Not all of it made it to American tables, however, or even out of Nogales. Instead, as is the case every year, millions of pounds of misshapen or otherwise imperfect produce was diverted to the landfill. Despite the pandemic, Borderlands Food Rescue managed to keep up its longtime work of salvaging those less-than-perfect tomatoes, cucumbers, mangoes, and watermelons for people in need.(No paywall) » Read More

FERN’s Covid-19 Mapping Project concludes

The entrance for a JBS beef plant in Greeley, Colorado, included a temperature check for workers. Photo by Andy Cross/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images. On Sept. 2, after nearly 500 days of data gathering, the final update of FERN’s Covid-19 Mapping Project was completed. My effort to document the toll of the Covid-19 pandemic… » Read More

Tyson Foods sets Covid-19 vaccination deadline

The largest U.S. meat processor, Tyson Foods, said on Tuesday that all of its 139,000 employees must be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Nov. 1, with a proposed $200 "thank you" for to frontline workers for compliance. "We do not take this decision lightly," said chief executive Donnie King in a memo. "We have spent months encouraging our team members to get vaccinated – today under half of our team members are." » Subscribe

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