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Midwest GOP politicians blame meatpacking workers, not companies, for virus spread

Midwest GOP politicians blame meatpacking workers, not companies, for virus spread

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MINNEAPOLIS — As coronavirus hot spots erupted at major U.S. meatpacking plants, experts criticized extremely tight working conditions that made the factories natural high risk contagion locations. But some Midwestern politicians have pointed the finger at the workers’ living conditions, suggesting crowded homes bear some

blame.

The comments — including a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice’s remark that an outbreak didn’t seem to have come from “regular folks” — outraged workers and advocates who slammed them as elitist and critical of immigrants, who make up a big share of America’s meatpacking workforce.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, generated ire last month when discussing the closure of a Smithfield pork plant in Sioux Falls that infected 1,000 employees and people who came in contact with the workers, saying “99% of what’s going on today wasn’t happening inside the facility.”

The spread of the virus happened “more at home, where these employees were going home and spreading some of the virus because a lot of these folks who work at this plant live in the community, the same building, sometimes in the same apartment,” she said on Fox News.

Noem wasn’t alone. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, also a Republican, took heat for remarks last month after a meatpacking plant virus outbreak in his state.

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