US Meatpacking Worker Ordered Not to Wear Face Mask, Dies of Coronavirus

It has been reported that a U.S. meatpacking worker who was ordered not to wear a face mask on the job, has died of coronavirus. According to Bloomberg News, 64-year-old Rafael Benjamin passed away on April 19. He was an employee of Cargill Inc.'s pork and beef processing plant in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

Benjamin reportedly called out of work on April 4, stating that he had a cough and fever. A few days later, he had to be transported to the hospital by ambulance. He eventually had to be moved to the intensive care unit. Sadly, his 17th anniversary as a Cargill employee was spent in the hospital on a ventilator, but he never recovered to celebrate. Employees from the plant told Bloomberg that the plant did close to disinfect at one point. They also claimed many of them were sent back to work by supervisors and nurses on staff, after they reported being sick.

The use of face masks during the coronavirus pandemic has been widely controversial. In the town of Stillwater, Oklahoma, city officials instated a public mask ordinance, and then withdrew it the following day, due to threats from residents. "In the short time beginning on May 1, 2020, that face coverings have been required for entry into stores/restaurants, store employees have been threatened with physical violence and showered with verbal abuse," Stillwater City Manager Norman McNickle said in a statement.

McNickle continued: "In addition, there has been one threat of violence using a firearm. This has occurred in three short hours and in the face of clear medical evidence that face coverings helps contain the spread of COVID-19. Many of those with objections cite the mistaken belief the requirement is unconstitutional, and under their theory, one cannot be forced to wear a mask. No law or court supports this view."

He went on to say, "It is further distressing that these people, while exercising their believed rights, put others at risk." He later added, "It is unfortunate and distressing that those who refuse and threaten violence are so self-absorbed as to not follow what is a simple show of respect and kindness to others." Some areas have created very strong and strict rules regarding wearing face masks in public, while others have taken a more casual approach by suggesting it rather than making a requirement. The practice has been strongly recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.