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Economics

U.S. Supply Chains Disrupted by Millions Calling Out Sick

Some manufacturers are reporting absenteeism rates as high as 25%.
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Illustration: Samantha Slinn for Bloomberg Businessweek

Hundreds of workers at a Smithfield Foods Inc. meatpacking plant in Crete, Neb., contracted Covid-19 at the height of the pandemic last spring. For about 50 of the facility’s 2,300 employees, a fear of getting sick because of preexisting conditions has kept them from working ever since.

“We work so close together,” says a Smithfield worker in pork production who’s been on leave from the plant throughout the pandemic and asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. “It’s like pulling teeth to find out if the person next to you tested positive.”