Clarification – Two workers at the El Chilar facility in Apopka died after testing positive for the COVID-19 virus. Julio Morales, 42, died on April 20th at Advent Health Orlando. The second man, who also went by the name “Julio”, died during the first week of May but was not identified in official reports or by the statement released by El Chilar.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a staggering virus with no known cure. In the United States, it has infected 1,265,994 people and killed 75,661. In just a couple of months, it has crippled the economy and devastated public health.

In Apopka, it seemed as though its residents were going to avoid the worst of the outbreak with only 103 testing positive and no reported fatalities out of a population of over 53,000. But then, during the first week of a phase one re-opening of the economy in Florida, during a time when people were just starting to get excited about restaurants opening, two fatalities were reported at the El Chilar spice manufacturing facility in Apopka after testing positive for COVID-19.

El Chilar released the following statement about the two deaths:

“The El Chilar team was deeply saddened when families shared that two employees passed away while the manufacturing facility was closed. We grieve the loss of these valued team members who were colleagues and friends. The company respects the privacy of our employees and their families and will not share health-related information about specific employees.”

However, the El Chilar facility is not alone.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents more than 250,000 meatpacking and food processing workers across the U.S., estimated that approximately 6,500 meatpacking and food processing workers have been infected with COVID-19 or otherwise been directly impacted by the virus, including those who had missed work due to self-quarantine or had shown symptoms of infection.

There are over 500,000 employees in the nation’s meat processing industry, and as of April 27th, 4,913 plant workers in 115 plants in 19 states had been diagnosed with COVID-19, and 20 people had died, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 17 states that provided data on how many workers were employed at affected facilities, 3% of more than 130,000 workers were diagnosed with COVID-19, researchers found.

In Florida, there have been 38,828 people diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus, and 1,600 deaths according to the Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard. In Orange County 1,474 have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 36 deaths have been reported.


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