California Continues to Record Dozens of Workplace Covid Outbreaks Every Day

As businesses reopen, workplace outbreaks and infections are diminishing, but at an agonizingly slow rate. California reported an average of about 34 new workplace outbreaks and 404 new workplace cases per day, over a five-week period in April and May. Photo: Russ Allison Loar, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Foster Farms was fined $181,500 on May 24, 2021 by the California Division of Occupational Health and Safety (Cal/OSHA) for failing to protect workers from Covid-19 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 Covid-19.

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.

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. Subcontracting saves Foster Farms money, and allows them to shift the blame and avoid responsibility for their killing ways.

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 U.S. 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 U.S. from Covid-19 every day. That is about how many U.S. 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. That is cold comfort if you work in one of the thousands of workplaces that have seen recent oubreaks.



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Some particulars from the April 13 through May 17 numbers:

Health Care & Social Assistance
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

121 new outbreaks, 2,706 new cases
The biggest outbreaks in manufacturing include:
Animal slaughtering & processing
Bakeries & tortillas
Carpet & rug mills
Textile product mills
Cut & sew apparel
Leather tanning & finishing
Paperboard containers
Paper & pulp products
Printing & related support
Petroleum refining
Pharmaceuticals & medicines
Plastics products
Iron & steel mills
Nonferrous metal production & processing
Metal forgings & stampings
Cutlery & hand tools
Machine shops
Fabricated metal products
Machinery manufacturing
Electric light & electrical equipment
Motor vehicles & equipment
Aircraft & parts
Aerospace products & parts
Medical equipment & supplies

Educational Services
120 new outbreaks, 753 new cases
The biggest outbreaks in educational services include:
Elementary & secondary schools
Universities, colleges, junior colleges & professional schools

Retail trade
108 new outbreaks, 1,073 new cases
The biggest outbreaks in retail trade include:
Automobile dealers
Electronic stores
Building material & supplies
Grocery stores
Department stores

Public Safety, including Police, Fire & 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 & other food services

Transportation & Warehousing
64 new outbreaks, 1,957 new cases
The biggest outbreaks in transportation & warehousing include:
Air transportation
Truck transportation
Bus service & urban transit
Couriers & messengers
Warehousing & storage

36 new outbreaks, 400 new cases

Wholesale trade
23 new outbreaks, 312 new cases
The biggest outbreaks in wholesale merchants include:
furniture & home furnishings
apparel, piece goods & notions
grocery & related products

Real Estate & Rental & 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 A version of this piece was originally published at 48 Hills.