WASHINGTON — US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently sent two letters to governors and meat and poultry stakeholders regarding the “clear expectations for the implementation of President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order signed last week.”
Trump issued an executive order on April 28, citing the Defense Production Act, to keep meat processing plants open to hold off possible shortages of beef, pork, chicken and other meats.
In the letters, Perdue implored companies follow the new interim CDC and OSHA guidelines for US meat production plants during the COVID-19 pandemic issued on April 26.
“USDA expects state and local officials to work with these critical meat processing facilities to maintain operational status while protecting the health of their employees,” Perdue said. “Meat processing facilities are critical infrastructure and are essential to the national security of our nation. Keeping these facilities operational is critical to the food supply chain and we expect our partners across the country to work with us on this issue.”
The CDC guidance stated that “critical infrastructure workers may be permitted to continue work following potential exposure to COVID-19, provided they remain asymptomatic and additional precautions are implemented to protect them and the community.”
The CDC recommends workers should encourage single-file movement throughout the facility with 6 feet of distance between workers whenever possible. In addition, workers should be designated to monitor and facilitate one another with social distancing on processing floor lines.
The agency also said that PPE and face coverings should be provided to workers.
In his written remarks to stakeholders, Perdue wrote that plants should resume operations as soon as they are able to after implementing CDC/OSHA guidance.
“Meat and poultry processing plants contemplating reductions of operations or recently closed since Friday May 1, and without a clear timetable for near term resumption of operations, should submit written documentation of their operations and health and safety protocol developed based on the CDC/OSHA guidance to USDA at email@example.com,” the letter said.