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Industry officials keep virus-related worker illnesses elusive

| Jun 4, 2020 | Workers' Compensation

Milwaukee TV stations carry commercial after commercial thanking front-line workers for their heroism. While the sentiments might be genuine, the reality is that many workers in Wisconsin’s food industry face exposure to the coronavirus without assurances that they will be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

News outlets regularly carry reports of workers in meat processing plants in Wisconsin and other states being exposed to the virus.

The New York Times reports that more than 100 processing plants across the U.S. have “seen a substantial number of coronavirus cases,” but that exact numbers are difficult to come by because industry and health officials are unwilling to share data.

In a recent investigative report, the newspaper said the virus has spread rapidly in meatpacking facilities, nursing homes and prisons, but because of industry and official reluctance to share detailed case counts, it is “difficult to tell whether the contagion is contained or new cases are emerging even with new safety measures in place.”

Of course, exposure to the coronavirus affects more than just the workers. It poses dangers to the workers’ families as well.

The paucity of information often leaves workers, their families and their communities in the dark about the safety of returning to work as processing plants reopen.

The Times points out that “the meat companies are not legally required to disclose how many workers are sick,” though many experts agree that keeping the information private can have a ripple effect because workers and families won’t necessarily respond appropriately after exposure.

As business restrictions across Wisconsin ease, virus-related workers’ comp claims might well rise. Contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney if you have contracted Covid-19 while on the job.

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