Key Democratic House Committee chairs asked the Biden administration to require N95 air filtration masks to protect against the spread of Covid-19 at meatpacking plants, prisons and other risky workplaces.
The letter sent Monday cited research finding the virus is more transmissible through the air than originally thought and can be spread by tiny aerosol particles. N95 masks filter out about 95% of small particles.
President Joe Biden has ordered the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to consider issuing an emergency standard by March 15 setting mandatory workplace protections against the spread of Covid. The Trump administration issued only voluntary guidance for employers on Covid safety.
Meatpacking plants were among the early hotspots of the coronavirus pandemic. At least 57,493 meatpacking workers were infected with Covid and at least 284 died from the virus through Monday, according to a compilation of media reports by the Food & Environment Reporting Network.
Signers of the letter included Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott, Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, Commerce Chair Frank Pallone, and James Clyburn, chair of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.
Sarah Little, a spokeswoman for the North American Meat Institute, an industry trade association, said employees would benefit most from priority distribution of vaccines.
“Meat packing workers have masks. They need the vaccine,” Little said in an emailed response to the letter.
Top Photo: 3M Co. 8210V N95 particulate respirators are arranged for a photograph. Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg
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