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Kentucky meat packing workers still waiting for PPE as COVID-19 testing shows increase in cases

The fallout from coronavirus is creeping into the food industry, as more processing plants are slowed and some shutdown when workers test positive for COVID-19.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A major fast food chain is warning that their burgers may be a bit harder to find and some grocery stores are limiting meat purchases.The fallout from coronavirus is creeping into the food industry, as more processing plants are slowed and some shutdown when workers test positive for COVID-19. 

According to union representatives, the problems is getting PPE for plant workers. A request made eleven days ago for PPE for Kentucky meat processing workers has yet to be fulfilled by Governor Andy Beshear's office. Union officials insist they’re talking with governor's administration and the UFCW Local 227 is committed to employee safety.

“We're continuing to have conversation about PPE and the other requests that we've made,” said UFCW Local 227 spokesperson, Caitlin Blair. Blair says the union talked with administration officials Tuesday morning.

RELATED: Union asks Kentucky governor to make food processing workers priority amid coronavirus pandemic

"As of today, we've yet to heard back from the Governor's office directly about PPE, testing and additional childcare services for meat processing employees. However, we have talked directly with Dr. Stack about coordinating efforts to address the employee safety issues at these plants,” Ag Commissioner Ryan Quarles says. 

The Governor's communications director released this statement responding to WHAS11 News' questions about PPE for plant workers:

“Dr. Stack and the Governor’s deputy chief of staff had a call with the agriculture commissioner last week. The Department for Public Health is working with the major meat packing and processing facilities that have had outbreaks. A number of them have announced plans to close and clean, while another is about to have a major testing announcement. The administration has been directly involved and the Governor has talked directly about the safety of these workers.”

The UFCW says they’re committed to protecting workers and will continue to push for PPE.

The supply chain disruption

The legendary catch phrase, “Where’s the Beef?,” may become a real question by Wendy’s customers. The fast food chain released a statement blaming issues with the pandemic for reducing the supply at some restaurants. They warned customers that some menu items may disappear while they work out issues.

RELATED: 'Where's the Beef?' | Meat shortage leaves some Wendy's without hamburgers

Ryan Bridgeman, CEO of Manna, could not comment on their Wendy's franchises, but said their diverse 275 restaurant portfolio was reacting to these changing times.

“It’s been really good for us at least to be associated with the brands that we are during a crisis, because in a crisis leadership has to step up to the table,” Bridgeman said.

There's plenty of livestock but coronavirus cases are creating a bottleneck which is disrupting the supply chain.

A Louisville area plant has nearly 60 reported COVID-19 cases. It's still open, but others across the state and country have cut shifs and production or outright closed. Many are closing to setup safer operating guidelines to prevent the spread.

AP photos from around the country.

Other related stories to check out:

RELATED: Costco to temporarily limit meat purchases to 3 items per person

RELATED: Meatpackers cautiously reopen plants amid coronavirus fears

RELATED: VERIFY: Here's the basics of the food supply chain amidst COVID-19

RELATED: Kentucky farmers rise to challenge as Tyson Foods warns U.S. food supply chain is 'breaking'

RELATED: Tyson Foods warns 'the food supply chain is breaking' as plants close due to coronavirus

RELATED: Bardstown butcher business booms as concerns grow about food supply amid pandemic

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