President Trump has issued an executive order directing Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to “ensure the continued supply of meat and poultry” consistent with guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. CDC also issued a report on COVID-19 at meat and poultry processing facilities for the month of April 2020 that found 4,913 cases and 20 deaths among 130,000 workers and cited, among other risks, “crowded, multigenerational” residences and carpooling as relevant factors increasing the likelihood of transmission among employees. The government actions coincide with lawsuits seeking to hold meat and poultry processing plants liable for injury or death caused by COVID-19, including a wrongful death lawsuit brought against Quality Sausage Co. following the death of a forklift driver who allegedly contracted the coronavirus from coworkers. Parra v. Quality Sausage Co., No. DC-20-06406 (Tex. Dist. Ct., filed April 30, 2020).
Trump also issued an executive order aiming to “improve the competitiveness of American industry” by increasing aquaculture to boost the production of seafood. The order allows Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to request “each Regional Fishery Management Council to submit, within 180 days of the date of this order, a prioritized list of recommended actions to reduce burdens on domestic fishing and to increase production within sustainable fisheries, including a proposal for initiating each recommended action within 1 year of the date of this order.”