Factors That Might Affect SARS-CoV-2 Transmission Among Foreign-Born and U.S.-Born Poultry Facility Workers - Maryland, May 2020

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020 Dec 18;69(50):1906-1910. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6950a5.


Numerous recent assessments indicate that meat and poultry processing facility workers are at increased risk for infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) (1-4). Physical proximity to other workers and shared equipment can facilitate disease transmission in these settings (2-4). The disproportionate number of foreign-born workers employed in meat and poultry processing reflects structural, social, and economic inequities that likely contribute to an increased COVID-19 incidence in this population* (5). In May 2020, the Maryland Department of Health and CDC investigated factors that might affect person-to-person SARS-CoV-2 transmission among persons who worked at two poultry processing facilities. A survey administered to 359 workers identified differences in risk factors for SARS-CoV-2 infection between workers born outside the United States and U.S.-born workers. Compared with U.S.-born workers, foreign-born workers had higher odds of working in fixed locations on the production floor (odds ratio [OR] for cutup and packaging jobs = 4.8), of having shared commutes (OR = 1.9), and of living with other poultry workers (OR = 6.0). They had lower odds of participating in social gatherings (OR for visits to family = 0.2; OR for visits to friends = 0.4), and they visited fewer businesses in the week before the survey than did their U.S.-born coworkers. Some workplace risk factors can be mitigated through engineering and administrative controls focused on the production floor, and this will be of particular benefit to the foreign-born workers concentrated in these areas. Employers and health departments can also partner with local organizations to disseminate culturally and linguistically tailored messages about risk reduction behaviors in community settings, including shared transportation§ and household members dwelling in close quarters..

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / transmission*
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Food-Processing Industry*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maryland / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Poultry
  • Risk Factors