May 4, 2020
Missouri Pork Plant Sees Nearly 400 Workers Test Positive For Coronavirus, None Had Any Symptoms

Nearly 400 workers at a Missouri pork processing plant tested positive for the coronavirus, with none of them showing any symptoms, Business Insider reports. Those workers who tested positive were offered the chance to stay home, with pay, the company's CEO says.

Triumph Foods employs about 2,800 workers at its plant in St. Joseph, north of Kansas City. Last week, the company tested all of its employees for the coronavirus. Of those tested, 374 of them -- nearly 13 percent of the facility's workforce -- tested positive.

None of those 374 employees who tested positive had shown any symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.

CEO Mark Campbell told his workforce that those employees who tested positive will be asked to stay at home for an undisclosed amount of time. They'll be paid, and not docked vacation or sick time, while they self-isolate. Further, they'll all be sent care packages containing hand sanitizer and masks.

Further, Missouri's State Health Director, Dr. Randall Williams, said that his agency would employ contract tracing in order to identify anybody the infected workers might have come into contact with.

That a relatively small percentage of a group of thousands of people who work in close contact with each other would test positive for the coronavirus, and that so few would actually get sick with it, is roughly on par with how the virus has affected the general population. As Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease specialist, who has become the face of the public battle against the coronavirus, explains, approximately 25 to 50 percent of the people who contract the coronavirus have no symptoms.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 27: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci listens during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in the press briefing room of the White House on March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump signed the H.R. 748, the CARES Act on Friday afternoon. Earlier in the day, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the $2 trillion stimulus bill that lawmakers hope will battle the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Getty Images | Drew Angerer

That's part of the reason this virus is so insidious: because people who are carrying it don't show any symptoms, they may be inclined to go to work or otherwise go about their daily lives, thus risking spreading the infection to others.

Triumph is far from the only meat processing plant to be a hotspot for outbreaks of the coronavirus. In fact, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents about a quarter of a million workers in the industry across the country, at least 5,000 of its workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 20 have died.

President Trump, for his part, has issued an executive order last week that compels meat-processing facilities to stay open, with a view towards protecting the country's food supply. The UFCW has criticized that order, saying that it potentially puts workers at risk, and doesn't offer them any guidance at how to stay protected while working.