‘It’s dog food compared to human life’: Inside a small-town manufacturer struggling with COVID-19

The Diamond Pet Food factory in Dumas runs around the clock. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, hundreds of workers process meat, grains and vegetables into dog kibble, bag the finished product and load it by the ton into semi-trailers awaiting pickup. Trucks rumble through the plant’s front gate day and night to haul Diamond products from this Arkansas Delta town to shelves across North America.

The production of dog food never stops, even in a pandemic. Though dozens of the plant’s roughly 200 employees have fallen ill with COVID-19 in recent months, workers say plant management is committed to maintaining business as usual and has never paused or slowed operations.

Diamond is the largest employer in Dumas, a community of about 4,200 located some 90 miles southeast of Little Rock. Like many towns in the Delta, Dumas has suffered from decades of economic decline and outmigration; the population has shrunk by more than a third since 1980. Unemployment is high and stable jobs are scarce.

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