America's meat problems are about to get worse

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  • Donald Trump
    Donald Trump
    45th President of the United States

The meat industry is in for a rough road to recovery.

It's been nearly a month since President Trump encouraged meat plants to either remain open or reopen, even as many of them became hotspots for coronavirus spread across the U.S. Outbreaks are continuing to mar the plants' reopening plans, leading to industry-wide dilemmas that could create meat shortages for months to come, The Washington Post reports.

While it's difficult to put a number on just how many meat plant workers have contracted coronavirus nationwide, North Carolina has provided a good sample. Of the 2,200 workers tested for coronavirus at Tyson Foods' chicken processing plant in Wilkes Country, 570 tested positive last week, Tyson told NPR. Parts of the facility have closed for cleaning, cutting how much meat the plant can turn out. And so, for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic, North Carolina farmers have had to start euthanizing at least 1.5 million chickens, a state agriculture official told the News & Observer, calling the measure a "last resort."

Most meat plants in North Carolina and nationwide won't disclose just how may of their employees have contracted coronavirus, but the close-packed working conditions have turned the facilities into disease hotspots since the early days of the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated at least 5,000 workers were infected by the end of April, though advocates have suggested there could be more than 17,000. And with plants already slow to respond to outbreaks and some still partially closed, it's likely that shortages may only get worse.

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