The claim: 5,000 meatpackers have tested positive for COVID-19, but not 5,000 doctors or nurses
As stay-at-home orders expire and states across the U.S. begin to reopen, businesses and workers are weighing whether or not to participate.
Throughout the duration of the shutdowns, essential workers – including nurses, doctors and grocery-store employees – continued to work, putting them at a higher risk of contracting the new coronavirus.
While businesses and workers are taking precautions to help mitigate the spread of the virus, some industries, including meatpacking, have been hit hard by outbreaks.
Social media posts have contributed to the spread of misinformation about the number of cases and deaths within industries.
As outbreaks in meatpacking plants make national headlines, misinformation and theories surrounding the outbreaks have been circulating on social media.
One viral May 6 Facebook post falsely claims: “DON’T YOU FIND IT QUITE INTERESTING, THAT 5,000 MEAT PACKERS TESTED POSITIVE! HOWEVER, NOT 5,000 NURSES & DOCTORS!”
Coronavirus cases in the health care and meatpacking industries
Health care workers on the front lines of battling COVID-19 have direct or indirect exposure to infected patients or materials every day.
As of April 9, nearly 9,300 health care workers in the U.S. had been infected with the coronavirus, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, officials emphasized that the actual count is likely much higher, because the report's count was only drawn from 16% of the country's coronavirus cases. Additionally, in the states that tracked cases most closely, health care workers accounted for about 11% of them.
A May 8 report from the CDC found that, by late April, about 4,900 workers at 115 packing facilities had been infected with COVID-19. Factors influencing the spread of the virus within these plants may include "difficulties with workplace physical distancing and hygiene and crowded living and transportation conditions," according to the CDC.
The report stated that the findings are subject to certain limitations, including variations in testing and states reporting, meaning that there are likely other cases in the meatpacking industry that have not been included in the count.
Outbreaks within meatpacking plants have had a national impact, causing a 40% reduction in pork slaughter capacity, a 25% reduction in beef slaughter capacity, and at least 30 plants have closed in the last two months, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
In an effort to stabilize the supply chain, President Donald Trump issued an executive order in late April that re-opened 14 meatpacking plants. The order was met with pushback from UFCW International President Marc Perrone, who urged the government to prioritize safety measures.
Our rating: False
We rate the claim in the post FALSE because it is not supported by our research. While there has been a significant amount of coronavirus cases in meatpacking facilities, the statement that 5,000 meatpackers have been infected but not 5,000 nurses and doctors is incorrect.
As of April 9, nearly 9,300 health care workers had been infected with the coronavirus and as of late April, about 4,900 meatpackers had tested positive for the virus, according to the CDC.
Additionally, the actual count of coronavirus cases among health care workers is likely much higher, because thecount in the CDC's report was only drawn from 16% of the country's cases. States that tracked the coronavirus more closely found that health care workers accounted for about 11% of cases.
Our fact-check sources:CDC, Characteristics of Health Care Personnel with COVID-19 — United States, February 12–April 9, 2020CDC, COVID-19 Among Workers in Meat and Poultry Processing Facilities ― 19 States, April 2020USDA, America’s Meatpacking Facilities Practicing Safe Reopening to Ensure a Stable Food Supply
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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.