Iowa Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks is defending how the meatpacking plant in her hometown of Ottumwa responded in the first weeks of the pandemic.
“Let’s not forget that even experts like Dr. Fauci didn’t know what was going on in those early months and guidance was changing daily,” Miller-Meeks said today during a U.S. House subcommittee hearing.
A new congressional report has found at least 269 employees at the five largest U.S. meatpacking companies died of Covid during the first year of the pandemic — three times higher than previously reported – and 59,000 U.S. packing plant employees tested positive for the virus. Miller-Meeks, a Republican, is a member of the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis and she is pushing back on the idea the majority of JBS workers in Ottumwa who contracted Covid got the virus inside the plant.
“People don’t spend 24 hours a day at their workplace,” Miller-Meeks said. “They are at home or in their community and our contract tracing showed that most of our spread came from in the home or other living conditions or in transportation with carpooling.”
Radio Iowa has been unable to reach the Wapello County Public Health for Covid data specifically related to JBS employees.
According to Miller-Meeks, the average number of packing plant employees who’ve tested positive for Covid since last November has consistently been lower than the U.S. population as a whole.”There has been a declining rate of Covid among meat and poultry workers since May of 2020,” Miller-Meeks said. “…The industry clearly has made significant progress in their Covid-19 mitigation strategy.”
AUDIO of Miller-Meeks’ remarks during subcommittee hearing, 5:27
The congressional report singled out the National Beef Plant in Tama, calling it a Covid hot spot during the early weeks of the pandemic, with 44% of employees testing positive for the virus. Democrats in congress say OSHA failed to issue “meaningful fines” last year when unsafe conditions inside meatpacking plants led to the deaths of employees.