The Rev. Dr. Maria Evans is serving as the Interim Rector at Christ Church in Rolla. She is also a pathologist, board certified in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology, a laboratory medical director, and has served on hospital infection control committees for over 30 years.
During the coronavirus outbreak, The Rev. Dr. Maria is offering her expertise to help us understand and make our way through this unprecedented experience. If you have a question you'd like to ask The Rev. Dr. Maria, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why does COVID seem to spread so rapidly in meat processing facilities? Should I be worried about the safety of the meat I purchase at the grocery store?
Many of us have seen the high numbers of cases associated with meat processing facilities
in the news, and how that is becoming more widespread in Missouri. These facilities can become incubators for COVID for a variety of reasons:
1. Workers are crowded together to perform tasks where keeping physical distance is impossible and work shifts are long (sometimes 10-12 hours);
2. Workers may commute as far as 50 miles each way to and from work, as jobs in rural areas that pay well are scarce (and carpooling is frequent);
3. The colder temperatures in these facilities allow the virus to remain viable for longer periods of time; and
4. Most workers in the meat industry are young, healthy, and in reasonable physical condition, so the chance of them being an asymptomatic carrier is increased. Even when screening measures, such as temperature checks, are instituted, those measures are going to miss the asymptomatic carriers. It then creates a vector that can dramatically increase household and community spread in a short period of time, often hundreds of cases in a matter of days to weeks.
These "hot spots" have dramatically increased the number of COVID-19 cases in ordinarily safer, isolated parts of the country. Last week, cases from five counties in Nebraska where meat processing facilities were located accounted for over half the total number of COVID-19 cases in the state.
It's certainly disrupting the supply chain to our meat counter at the local grocery store, but the good news is we still have no cases of COVID related to ingestion of food. All the evidence points to inhalation of viral particles as the means of infection.
Meanwhile, please keep these essential workers in your prayers. It's difficult, backbreaking, and dangerous work, even before the COVID-19 epidemic, and when temporary shutdowns occur because of an outbreak, it can be economically devastating to their families. Many of the meat facility workers in Missouri are Hispanic and Congolese, with extended family "back home" who were also depending on these workers' incomes. All of our meat processing workers can definitely use our prayers, as well as a deeper understanding of the conditions in which they work, so our prayers can turn into action for a safer work environment.
The Rev. Dr. Maria Evans
who also doubles as
Maria L. Evans, MD, FCAP, FASCP
This material is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. The Episcopal Church and its affiliates do not provide any healthcare services and, therefore, cannot guarantee any results or outcomes. Always seek the advice of a healthcare professional with any questions about your personal healthcare, including diet and exercise.