WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — A new executive order issued by President Donald Trump is forcing meat processing plants to remain open during the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The order is meant to prevent any further closures caused by the coronavirus. Backers of the measure like Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota said it allows for food supply chains to remain stable and keeps livestock from going to waste.
“Both pork and cattle that will probably be past the point that they can be harvested,” said Rounds. “[They] will probably have to be euthanized.”
The union representing the meat plant workers argued the executive order does nothing to further ensure their safety. United Food and Commercial Workers’ (UFCW) Mark Lauritsen said he is concerned about shortages of personal protective equipment.
“What we need to have now is the proper PPE, layered on top of layers on top of layers of PPE to properly do this job safely,” said Lauritsen. “We need to have testing. They didn’t mention anything about how they were going to start testing.
At least 21 meat packing employees have died from COVID-19 and more than 5,000 have fallen ill to the virus, according to the union.