• President Trump is reportedly planning to sign an executive order that would keep meatpacking facilities open as a potential shortage looms.
  • Meat processing plants in several states have seen severe COVID-19 outbreaks, prompting some to close.
  • Details remain scant on Trump’s potential executive order, which would reportedly use the Defense Production Act to compel the companies to remain open as “critical infrastructure.”
  • Trump made comments in the Oval Office on Tuesday indicating he wants to shield the meatpacking companies from liability.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump is reportedly eying two measures to keep the meatpacking industry churning along as workers are falling ill from some of the most severe workplace COVID-19 outbreaks in the country.

First reported by Bloomberg News, Trump plans on keeping meat processing facilities open by classifying their work as “critical infrastructure” under the Defense Production Act. 

The timeline and specifics of the move are remained vague as the news broke Tuesday afternoon. 

—Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) April 28, 2020

During an Oval Office meeting with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier in the day, Trump told reporters that the liability facing companies such as Tyson Foods over employees contracting the coronavirus is “a road block.” 

Trump reiterated his concern over liability for meat processing companies during an impromptu press conference at the White House later in the afternoon.

More than 3,400 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been connected to meatpacking facilities as of last week, with a USDA inspector dying last Thursday after testing positive for the virus.

In South Dakota, the state’s most severe coronavirus outbreak took place at one of the largest meat processing plants in the country. 

That plant, Smithfield Foods’ pork processing plant, closed earlier this month.

OSHA has held off on issuing mandatory safety rules on the coronavirus, instead sticking with with recommendations. 

A Tyson spokesperson told CNN on Tuesday that because they have not seen the executive order, they cannot comment.

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