Bloomberg tracks the death of Rafael Benjamin in this feature.
By late March, Rafael Benjamin’s family was pleading with him to stay home from work even if it cost him his job. He promised he would, but not until after April 10. That would be his work anniversary, his 17th at Cargill Inc.’s pork and beef processing plant in Hazleton, Pa.—a milestone for topping up his pension when he retired in October.
So Benjamin, 64, soldiered on, a second-shift worker earning $15.35 an hour. Around him, colleagues were falling ill; on the employee grapevine, people said it was the coronavirus. Supervisors said that wasn’t true and told workers not to discuss who might be infected.
But before long, Covid-19, the illness caused by the virus, ran through entire departments. By April 7, 130 of the plant’s 900 employees had tested positive, according to the workers’ union, United Food & Commercial Workers International, but neither Cargill nor local officials were disclosing any numbers. Amid the information void, Benjamin kept working, with growing unease.