Workers have fallen ill of coronavirus in several plants across the country, prompting some to close. Will Florida be impacted?
With COVID-19 outbreaks closing around a dozen meat plants around the country in the past week, including three Tyson Foods Inc. plants, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal, grocery executives have warned that supplies of some products could run short within two weeks.
Ostensibly to avert the predicted shortage, on Tuesday President Trump announced that he would sign an executive order seeking to protect meat plants from legal liability if they are sued by employees who contract coronavirus on the job. And while Trump only mentioned Tyson Foods, he suggested his order would protect other businesses from liability as well.
At this time, details are few on the president’s potential executive order which, according to the Associated Press, he could sign as early as today and is “meant to stave off a shortage of chicken, pork and other meat on U.S. supermarket shelves because of the coronavirus.” The order will use the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing as critical infrastructure to keep production plants open.
Speaking from the Oval Office with Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, one his biggest allies, Trump told reporters the liability companies such as Tyson Foods face over employees contracting the coronavirus is “a road block.”
Workers have fallen ill of the contagious disease in several plants across the country, prompting some to close. In fact, as of last week, more than 3,400 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been tied to meatpacking facilities. And according to a USA report, more than 4,400 meatpacking workers have tested positive for the virus, and at least 18 have died from the virus as of Tuesday morning.
Will Florida Be Affected?
Florida currently ranks 13th in U.S. cattle production, with more than 15,000 beef producers across the state, according to the Florida Beef Council. About 90 percent of the beef produced in the state is shipped to out-of-state feedlots and meat processors. But according Chris Prevatt, a state specialized extension agent at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Range Cattle Research and Education Center, “the real brunt of the strained supply chain” will be felt by the state’s livestock farmers.