On April 28, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to ensure that workers at meat processing plants continue working throughout the ongoing coronavirus epidemic despite the crowded conditions that make such workplaces ripe for fresh COVID-19 outbreaks.
Tyson — one of the nation’s largest producers and marketers of chicken, beef, and pork — said on Wednesday that 570 of the 2,244 employees at its Wilkesboro, North Carolina complex have contracted confirmed cases of COVID-19, the virus that has killed nearly 96,370 Americans nationwide so far.
Tyson says many of the workers were asymptomatic. “The company has seen similar massive outbreaks, in the hundreds of cases, at its meat processing plants in Pasco, Washington; Madison, Nebraska; and Waterloo, Iowa,” VICE News writes.
The company has since closed two of the complex’s three processing plants to conduct a deep cleaning and has also placed the employees on paid leave as they remain in quarantine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 5,000 meat plant workers across 19 states have tested positive for COVID-19. Smithfield, the largest pork producer in the United States, has also reported 783 coronavirus cases and two deaths among workers at its Sioux Falls, South Dakota plant.
While these cases and deaths occurred before Trump’s executive order, they show just how dangerous meatpacking plants are for employees and their families. Crowded conveyer belt workspaces make it impossible to maintain 6 feet of social distancing and the cold air makes it easier for the coronavirus to stay active on surfaces.
The workers also tend to be low-wage, immigrants who live in crowded homes and take public transit, two factors which can increase a person’s likelihood of contracting the virus.
On May 1, Jennifer McQuiston, a top CDC official, said 115 meat and processing facilities in 23 states have reported coronavirus cases. Trump’s executive order allows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to step in and force a meat plant to stay open even if a state government tries to shut it down as a public health hazard.
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‘I Can’t Imagine Why’: Trump Refuses Responsibility for Spike in Poisonings After ‘Disinfectant Injection’ Comments
President Donald Trump is refusing to take any responsibility for the massive increase in calls to poison control centers after he mused last week that an “injection” of disinfectant might cure people of coronavirus, and urged doctors to test his theory.
“Theyu’ve seen a spike in people using disinfectant after your comment last week,” reporter Brian Karem told the President.
“I know you said they were ‘sarcastic’ –” Karem offered, but was immediately interrupted by Trump.
“I can’t imagine why, can’t imagine why, yeah,” the President claimed.
Asked if he would “take any responsibility,” Trump responded, “No I don’t,” but quickly added, “I can’t imagine why,” again, obviously eager to avoid the national outrage after the last time he said he took no responsibility.
He then blew off the reporter and went to another.
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 27, 2020
‘Narcissistic Psychopath’ Trump Has Forced the White House to Live in ‘Alternate Reality’ Amid Coronavirus: Columnist
In an op-ed for The Intercept this Wednesday, James Risen writes that President Trump is spouting quackery and hatred just like “medieval demagogue” during a 14th century plague.
“Major catastrophes lay bare the truth about our leaders,” Risen writes. “Trump’s criminally negligent, chaotic handling of the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed, once and for all, that he is a corrupt, narcissistic psychopath.”
Risen contends that Trump is surrounded by enablers, not only in the White House but also in the White House press corps “who daily act as his Greek chorus. Instead of ignoring his lies and outrageous statements, they dutifully cover his Covid-19 press conferences and tweets as if they were the serious, coherent statements of a genuine national leader.”
According to Risen, this serves as a boost to Trump’s “disinformation campaign,” which could result in thousands of additional infections and death from coronavirus.
Also acting as Trump’s enablers are the government’s top public health professionals, according to Risen, who have been forced to pretends that Trump’s coronavirus strategy has been sound.
“The result is that the White House is stuck in a surreal alternate reality in which reporters and government officials continue to do their jobs as if the president were not mad as a hatter,” Risen writes.
Read his full op-ed over at The Intercept.
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