Health officials say 50 crabmeat pickers on Maryland's Eastern Shore contracted COVID-19 this summer.
The Daily Times of Salisbury reports that the outbreaks recorded by the Dorchester Department of Health sent one worker to the hospital, but did not result in any fatalities.
Workers' rights advocates said a lack of personal protective equipment and a language barrier that kept workers from communicating their concerns to their employers contributed to the outbreaks. Advocates also said some sick workers also believed they had to go back to work before they were ready.
About 40 of the cases occurred at Russell Hall Seafood in Fishing Creek. The entire company was on lockdown for two weeks, with positive cases isolated and everyone else quarantined.
The workers, many of whom are Mexican citizens, are working in the U.S. legally. The H-2B visa program allows American companies to hire foreign workers for temporary non-agricultural jobs; the Maryland crab-picking industry has relied on H-2B workers since the program was introduced in the early 1990s.
Multiple calls and messages left over the course of a week for Harry Phillips, owner of Russell Hall Seafood, were not returned.