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Coronavirus in Texas: Some Texas Democrats in Congress want investigation into conditions at meatpacking plants

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North Lamar Boulevard in Austin is empty during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eddie Gaspar/The Texas Tribune

Thursday's biggest developments:

  • Texans among federal lawmakers wanting investigation into meatpacking plants

Congressional Hispanic Caucus wants better working conditions for meatpackers

[5 a.m.] The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, chaired by U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, is calling on the federal government to improve working conditions for employees in the meat processing industry. In a letter sent to senior Trump administration officials, the federal lawmakers also asked for an investigation into working conditions of meatpacking businesses.

The Texas Department of State Health Services is investigating coronavirus outbreaks at meat processing plants JBS Beef and Tyson Foods in Moore and Shelby counties, respectively. More than a dozen meat and poultry processing plants nationwide, often staffed by immigrant workers, have had to temporarily shut down to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

According to Angelina County Judge Don Lymbery, nine of 10 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed there Wednesday were from Pilgrim’s Pride, one of the largest chicken producers in the country.

“We request that you conduct an investigation into the pervasiveness and consequential effects that the working conditions for meat processing workers during COVID-19 have had on workers’ wellbeing and our nation’s food supply,” Congressional Hispanic Caucus members wrote in a letter to the Trump administration.

Besides Castro, who is a San Antonio Democrat, U.S. Reps. Veronica Escobar of El Paso and Sylvia R. Garcia of Houston also signed the letter.

“However, while an investigation is critical to better understand the problems in the meatpacking industry and possible solutions, it is imperative that the Department of Labor immediately issue an emergency temporary standard to protect essential workers,” the letter said. — Abby Livingston

More than 27,000 Texans have contracted the new coronavirus

[5 a.m.] Texas health officials are expected later Thursday to release the latest numbers of Texans who have tested positive for the coronavirus. As of Wednesday, 27,054 Texans have contracted the virus, and 732 people have died. See maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents.