A Perfect Storm for Essential Workers

Daniel Johnson, MD | Nebraska

The majority of really sick critically ill Covid-19 patients are people who work in the meat processing industry. These meat processing workers in a way have been given a perfect storm of badness by COVID-19. The work that they do obviously cannot be done by home, so they need to go to work. Then at work a lot of meat processing facilities have workers standing very close to each other right next to each other for hours on end which is obviously a big risk of exposure to COVID-19 if someone there has the disease.

Following work, many of these workers go home to multi-generational households where grandparents, parents and children are all living under one roof which puts family members at risk. At baseline, a lot of meat processing workers do not have adequate access to healthcare pre pandemic so you can imagine that with a pandemic that problem has only been exacerbated. And then to make matters worse if they do become critically ill and they end up at the ICU they have to overcome a massive language barrier because most of our meat processing workers are non-English speaking where the healthcare team is largely English speaking only. So, these were all problems before the pandemic it’s just that COVID-19 has really shown a light on them.

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