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News + PoliticsCOVIDThe COVID pandemic is far from over in California workplaces

The COVID pandemic is far from over in California workplaces

Foster Farms case is just one example of how workers are still getting sick -- and in some cases, dying.


Foster Farms was fined $181,500 on May 24, 2021 by the California Division of Occupational Health and Safety for failing to protect workers from COVID at its Livingston poultry plant and distribution center near Fresno, and for failing to report all infections. At least eight Foster Farms workers died from the virus.

The Los Angeles Times called these fines “massive.” The Fresno Bee called it “one of the steepest citations” Cal/OSHA has issued during the pandemic.

Image from the Centers for Disease Control.

But a little math tells you that if eight workers died, Foster Farms is paying a fine of about $22,700 per body. If more than eight workers died, those lives are costing Foster Farms even less per body. Is that all that a worker’s life is worth in California?

Foster Farms workers are mostly Latino and Punjabi Sikh. Deep Singh, the head of the non-profit Jakara Movement that works with the Punjabi Sikh community, called these fines “a slap on the wrist.” Apparently Cal/OSHA and the Los Angeles Times put a different valuation on workers’ lives.

In yet another sign of the times, Cal/OSHA issued an additional $111,200 worth of fines on four “staffing companies” for Foster Farms.

Of course, Foster Farms and their “staffing companies” are expected to appeal these fines. Who knows how much they will actually end up paying.

The total number of deaths in the US from COVID-19 is fast approaching 600,000. That is more than ten times the number of US soldiers who died in the Vietnam War. Currently, something on the order of 500 people are dying in the US from COVID-19 every day. That is about how many US soldiers were dying every week at the height of the Vietnam War.

But for most of the corporate media, those 500 or so deaths are just background noise now, an inconvenient fact that the media wants us to forget, so as not to distract us from the reopening and from getting our profit-driven economy back on track. Nothing much to scream home about  – unless of course one of those deaths is in your home.

Or in your workplace. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) continues to post data about workplace outbreaks in the Golden State (that have been reported to CDPH), and the story is not pretty.

The latest CDPH postings list 1,200 new workplace outbreaks during the five weeks between April 13 and May 17, 2021. Outbreaks are defined as three or more cases of COVID-19 at a worksite within a 14-day period. Those 1,200 new workplace outbreaks include 14,145 new cases.

This works out to an average of about 34 new workplace outbreaks and 404 new workplace cases per day, over a five-week period.

That compares to 1,546 new workplace outbreaks and 21,156 new cases reported during the preceding six weeks between March 1 and April 12 – an average of about 36 new workplace outbreaks and 503 new workplace cases per day.

Workplace outbreaks and infections are diminishing, but at an agonizingly slow rate. Keep in mind, however, that as more workplaces reopen the likelihood of outbreaks and infections at any particular workplace is going down – at present. That is cold comfort if it is your workplace.

Some particulars from the April 13 through May 17 numbers:

  • 460 new outbreaks, 4,592 new cases
    The biggest outbreaks in health care & social assistance include:

Nursing care facilities

Residential care facilities

Community services, including homeless shelters

Child day care services

  • Manufacturing
    121 new outbreaks, 2,706 new cases

The biggest outbreaks in manufacturing include:
Animal slaughtering and processing

Bakeries and tortillas

Carpet and rug mills

Textile product mills

Cut and sew apparel

Leather tanning and finishing

Paperboard containers

Paper and pulp products

Printing and related support

Petroleum refining

Pharmaceuticals and medicines

Plastics products
Iron and steel mills
Nonferrous metal production and processing
Metal forgings and stampings
Cutlery and hand tools
Machine shops
Fabricated metal products
Machinery manufacturing
Electric light and electrical equipment

Motor vehicles and equipment

Aircraft and parts

Aerospace products and parts


Medical equipment and supplies

  • Educational Services
    120 new outbreaks, 753 new cases
    The biggest outbreaks in educational services include:
    Elementary and secondary schools
    Universities, colleges, junior colleges and professional schools
  • Retail trade
    108 new outbreaks, 1,073 new cases

The biggest outbreaks in retail trade include:

Automobile dealers

Electronic stores
Building material and supplies

Grocery stores

Department stores

  • Public Safety, including Police, Fire and Correctional Institutions
    91 new outbreaks, 1,012 new cases
  • Accommodation & Food Services

70 new outbreaks, 425 new cases
The biggest outbreaks in accommodation & food services include:

Traveler accommodation (hotels)

Restaurants and other food services

  • Transportation and Warehousing
    64 new outbreaks, 1,957 new cases

The biggest outbreaks in transportation and warehousing include:

Air transportation

Truck transportation

Bus service and urban transit

Couriers and messengers
Warehousing and storage

  • 36 new outbreaks, 400 new cases

  • Wholesale trade

23 new outbreaks, 312 new cases
The biggest outbreaks in wholesale merchants include:

furniture and home furnishings

apparel, piece goods and notions

grocery and related products

  • Real Estate & Rental and Leasing
    17 new outbreaks, 95 new cases
  • Religious Organizations
    12 new outbreaks, 108 new cases

CDPH does not link these workplace outbreaks and infections to hospitalizations or deaths. But one can safely assume that Foster Farms is not alone on the killing floor.

Marc Norton’s website is at https://MarcNortonOnline.wordpress.com.

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