CDC, OSHA issue interim guidance for meat and poultry processing workers and employers

Meat and poultry processing facilities are a component of the critical infrastructure within the Food and Agriculture Sector. CDC’s Critical Infrastructure Guidance advises 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.

All meat and poultry processing facilities developing plans for continuing operations in the setting of COVID-19 occurring among workers or in the surrounding community should (1) work directly with appropriate state and local public health officials and occupational safety and health professionals; (2) incorporate relevant aspects of CDC guidance, including but not limited to this document and the CDC’s Critical Infrastructure Guidance; and (3) incorporate guidance from other authoritative sources or regulatory bodies as needed.

Multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 among meat and poultry processing facility workers have occurred in the United States recently. This document provides guidance for meat and poultry processing workers and employers—including those involved in beef, pork, and poultry operations. This guidance supplements but does not replace general guidance at these web sites:

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness caused by a new virus called SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms often include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath and can range from very mild to severe. Some people become so sick they must be admitted to the hospital, and some people may die from the illness. Our understanding about the new virus and how the virus spreads is evolving as we learn more about COVID-19, so check the CDC website for the latest information. The virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person:

  • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet, which is about two meters).
  • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.

Recent studies indicate that people who are not showing symptoms can spread the virus. It may also be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about this virus. Workers at higher risk for serious illness include older adults and people of any age with chronic medical conditions. Policies and procedures addressing issues related to workers at higher risk of serious illness should be made in consultation with occupational medicine and human resource professionals.

This article was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.