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For two years, data illuminating COVID-19 cases by business in Wisconsin was kept under wraps. After the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel requested the data, a powerful business lobby sued to prevent their disclosure. Last summer, the state supreme court ruled in the newspaper’s favor.

When Investigate Midwest requested data in 2021 showing outbreaks in food production facilities by date, it was denied because of the court case. But, last month, with the case resolved, the state fulfilled the request. 

The by-month data give a clearer picture of how long food production facilities — including meatpacking plants — dealt with COVID-19. 

The data, through March of this year, show consistent case counts in the industry throughout 2020 and summer 2021. A few sporadic cases were recorded throughout 2022, with the latest cases appearing this past November.

All told, 23 deaths and nearly 4,300 cases were recorded industry-wide during the entire pandemic, the data show.  

Few states in the Midwest appear to have tracked COVID-19 cases in specific industries by date. Investigate Midwest requested industry data by date from several Midwest states but was told the data wasn’t kept that way.

Investigate Midwest is an independent, nonprofit newsroom. Our mission is to serve the public interest by exposing dangerous and costly practices of influential agricultural corporations and institutions through in-depth and data-driven investigative journalism.Visit us online at

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