3 USDA meat inspectors dead, about 145 diagnosed with COVID-19

Hundreds of federal meat inspectors have been exposed to COVID-19, as coronavirus outbreaks spread to thousands of workers at processing plants across the country.

About 145 field employees were absent from work as of April 28 due to COVID-19 diagnoses, and another 130 were under self-quarantine due to exposure to the virus, a spokesperson for the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the federal agency that inspects the U.S. food supply, told CBS News on Monday.

One FSIS inspector based out of the New York City area, one from the Chicago area and another from Mississippi have died due to the virus, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), a union representing food inspectors, said Tuesday.

Paula Schelling, acting president of AFGE Council 45, which represents 6,500 federal food inspectors nationwide, said she gives the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service "an 'F' for protecting their own employees."

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