COVID-19 Cases At Nebraska's Meatpacking Plants More Than Double

May 18, 2020 - 6:58pm

Nebraska’s meatpacking plants have been hit hard by COVID-19 outbreaks: officials initially reported over a thousand cases statewide. That number has grown significantly since the state’s first report. According to new data, a quarter of Nebraska’s COVID cases are now tied to a processing plant.

In early May, Gov. Pete Ricketts reported over a thousand COVID cases among meatpacking workers statewide, with three deaths. Nebraska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Anthone confirmed Monday afternoon that number has increased by nearly 160 percent over the past week and a half.

“We’ve had 2,601 confirmed positive of meat processing plant employees and a total of eight deaths at this time,” Anthone said.

Gov. Pete Ricketts has repeatedly said the state will not specify how many cases each plant has, or which facilities are struggling more than others. But some companies have signaled their struggles by closing down for deep cleaning amid widespread callouts and reports of escalating outbreaks.

Tyson Foods has closed plants in Dakota City and Madison. The Madison plant recently reopened after testing all of its workers. According to Tyson representatives, the initiative revealed over 200 cases at the plant, with over 70 of them having no symptoms of the virus. A Cargill plant in Schuyler also idled in early May and planned to reopen on Monday, but did not test its full staff.

Without a push from the state, the onus to release any numbers tied to specific plants has largely fallen on local health departments. Public Health Officials in hotspots like Grand Island, Madison, and Lexington have all expressed desires to release case data, but have struggled with a lack of proper staffing and resources to compile data from local plants.

According to a recent CDC report detailing national meatpacking case numbers in late April, at least twelve facilities statewide have confirmed cases.



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