WASHINGTON – Leaders from the union representing 6,500 federal meat and poultry inspectors nationwide are calling out Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts for failing to disclose COVID-19 infection rates at meatpacking plants.
“Governor Ricketts is showing appalling disregard for the health and safety of workers inside these plants by refusing to disclose how many people have tested positive for COVID-19,” American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley said.
“Hiding the number of infections from the public doesn’t make the infections go away – if anything, it encourages this deadly virus to spread further by giving people a false sense of security,” said AFGE District 8 National Vice President Gregg James, whose district includes Nebraska.
“Federal meat and poultry inspectors work in close proximity to plant employees, making social distancing virtually impossible, and making it all the more critical that they know when and where infections are occurring,” said Paula Schelling, acting president of AFGE Council 45, which represents 6,500 federal inspectors at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
According to news reports, the USDA has disclosed 197 COVID-19 infections among federal inspectors as of May 5, while another 120 were under self-quarantine for exposure to the virus. Four federal inspectors have died, one each in New York, Illinois, Mississippi, and Kansas.