Was Fresno’s health department in cahoots with foster farms? State and local leaders want answers.
Members of the Legislature’s Latino and Asian and Pacific Islander caucuses are calling for an investigation of the Fresno County Health Department amid allegations that it alerted Foster Farms about impending workplace inspections during COVID outbreaks at company facilities.
The allegations are contained in a report from the Fresno Bee. The publication obtained emails showing “health officials tipped off company executives about a Cal/OSHA inspection, coordinated media talking points during the crisis, withheld information from the public and issued no COVID-related corrective actions.”
Around the time of the correspondence, Foster Farms was being investigated by the department for workplace violations. At least 22 workers were hospitalized with COVID-19 and at least five people who worked at the South Cherry Avenue plant in Fresno lost their lives.
City officials have also spoken out.
“I’m disgusted by the level of intentional coordination to limit information on an outbreak by one of the largest employers in our city by the county and the employer,” Fresno City Councilman Miguel Arias told the Fresno Bee.
The health department has defended its actions, with a spokesperson calling their response to the outbreak "proactive, responsible, and completely appropriate."