Workplace worries mount as US tracks new COVID-19 cases

NEW YORK (AP) — Even as President Donald Trump urges getting people back to work and reopening the economy, thousands of new coronavirus infections are being reported daily, many of them job-related. Even the White House has proven vulnerable, with positive coronavirus tests for one of Trump’s valets and for Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary. “That risk is going to increase the more people are working.” Austin’s concerns will likely be mirrored in communities nationwide as the reopening of stores and factories creates new opportunities for the virus to spread. To be sure, there are plenty of new infections outside the workplace — in nursing homes, and among retired and unemployed people, particularly in densely populated places such as New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and urban parts of New Jersey and Massachusetts. Yet of the 15 U.S. counties with the highest per-capita infection rates between April 28 and May 5, all are homes to meatpacking and poultry-processing plants or state prisons, according to data compiled by The Associated Press. The county seat, Worthington, is home to a JBS pork processing plant that employs hundreds of immigrants. “These are sad and dangerous days,” the imam of a regional Islamic center, Ahmad Mohammad, told the Siouxland News. In northern Indiana’s Cass County, home to a large Tyson pork-processing plant, confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed 1,500. The Tyson plant in Logansport, Indiana, was closed April 25 after nearly 900 employees tested positive; it resumed limited operations Thursday after undergoing deep cleaning and installation of Plexiglas workstation barriers. The survey of 1,269 patients admitted to 113 hospitals over three recent days confounded expectations that new cases would be dominated by essential workers, especially those traveling on subways and buses. “We were thinking that maybe we were going to find a higher percentage of essential employees who were getting sick because they were going to work, that these may be nurses, doctors, transit workers. Though the elderly continue to account for a disproportionate share of COVID-19 cases, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the age ratio is changing. Since March, only about half the cases are of that age range, Many health workers were among the earliest Americans to test positive. Among those recently testing positive was Dr. Pramila Kolisetty of Scarsdale, New York, who has a rehab and pain management practice in the Bronx and is married to a urologist. Are you wearing a mask, are you doing the hand sanitizer?” ____ AP data journalist Andrew Milligan in New Haven, Connecticut, and reporters Rick Callahan in Indianapolis, Claudia Lauer in Philadelphia, Deepti Hajela and Mike Stobbe in New York, and Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed.