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This city’s coronavirus safety measures would work everywhere else

Published Jul 16th, 2020 2:44PM EDT
Coronavirus Safety Tips
  • Several safety measures can reduce the spread of the coronavirus, but the recent COVID-19 surges prove that people aren’t doing their part.
  • Social distancing, increased hygiene, and face masks can help prevent COVID-19 transmission, and these measures can work at the workplace as well.
  • A report says that one city’s simple safety measures for local manufacturing plants should be a model for other places looking to slow COVID-19 spread without having more lockdowns.

The novel coronavirus is out of control because people aren’t willing to respect simple guidelines meant to reduce the risk of transmission. Add to that an inadequate response from authorities and you end up with a health disaster that seems to have no end in sight. As of Thursday morning, America had more than 3.63 million cases with over 140,000 COVID-19 deaths. The number of daily positive diagnoses is approaching 70,000, just days after topping setting a record with 60,000 daily infections. But things can get turned around and some communities are doing whatever they can to limit COVID-19 transmission. Officials in one city in Massachusetts enforced strict regulations to reduce the spread of the virus without closing manufacturing plants.

Safety experts told NPR that the measures mayor Jon Mitchell enforced in New Bedford, MA should be a model for workplaces across the US. Mitchell issued two COVID-19 orders on May 6th, both related to plants in the city. Nearly 15% of New Bedford’s population works in manufacturing.

The first order requires companies to report workers who have the coronavirus or may have been infected to the local health department. The second order requires industrial facilities like local fish plants to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees, disinfect work areas, and respect social distancing rules. A health and safety officer also has to take the temperatures of workers at the start of every shift, though fever doesn’t necessarily present in all COVID-19 cases.

Companies that don’t comply with the orders face fines of up to $300 a day per violation as well as legal action.

“We looked at the experience of the meatpacking industry in the Midwest,” Mitchell said. “And we wanted to make sure that we’re doing everything we could to avoid an outcome or a set of outcomes like we saw there.”

Essential fish plant workers complained in mid-April that facilities lacked adequate PPE and disinfectants, and that they were overcrowded. Some two dozen workplace complaints were filed, so the health department of New Bedford had to shut down several fish plants following outbreaks.

No other US cities have passed similar orders according to Jodi Sugerman-Brozan, executive director at the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health.

“This emergency order is a great model for others around the state and across the country,” the exec told NPR “It sets very clear health and safety standards that were created in partnership with workers and reflects their demands.”

The city is seeing positive changes, as working conditions are improving and complaints have declined. Even so, resources remain a problem, including the manpower to oversee the implementation of safety measures.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.