President Trump Signs Executive Order to Keep Meat Processing Plants Open amid Coronavirus Crisis

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, several meatpacking plants have seen major outbreaks of the illness.

Employees in these facilities often work side-by-side while cutting and packaging meat, though health officials say avoiding new infections means avoiding groups and practicing social distancing.

According to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, 20 meatpacking workers have died from the illness and at least 6,500 have been affected, Politico reported.

As of Tuesday, at least 22 meatpacking and food processing plants have closed over the past two months due to the spread of the virus, the UFCW wrote in a statement.

"The food supply chain is breaking," John Tyson, the chairman of the board of Tyson, warned Sunday in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

"There will be limited supply of our products available in grocery stores until we are able to reopen our facilities that are currently closed," he added.

Earlier this month, the United Nations sounded the alarm that without action, parts of the world were at risk of numerous famines “of biblical proportions” in the near future.

David Beasley, the director of the United Nations World Food Program, addressed the U.N. Security Council via video where he expressed concerns that the world was on “the brink of a hunger pandemic.”

“There is also a real danger that more people could potentially die from the economic impact of COVID-19 [the coronavirus disease] than from the virus itself,” he warned.

The WFP already estimated that in 2020, nearly 135 million people would be facing starvation. With the addition of the coronavirus pandemic, Beasley is said that there could be an extra 130 million people “pushed to the brink of starvation" — bringing the total to 265 million people.

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