Why is Alex Azar still the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services? The guy can't go to the men's room without stepping in a giant pile of shit and tracking it all over the executive branch. The administration clearly needs a human sacrifice to appease the country's rage over the spectacularly botched pandemic response, so when is Seema Verma going to finally stick the knife in and put this asshole out of our misery?

Apparently Azar, in his infinite wisdom and unparalleled judgment, told a bipartisan group of lawmakers that the massive outbreaks at meat processing plants were due to the workers' "home and social" conditions, not the fact that they are crammed together on production lines that don't even slow down long enough for them to wipe their noses after sneezing. Because when you want to talk racist shit about people risking their lives for low pay to make sure meat stays cheap, you need to do it in front of a whole bunch of people. That's called being a PERFESSUNAL!

But don't worry, you guys, Azar has a ready solution for those 6,500 meat packing workers who brought contagion into the nation's immaculate abattoirs, and it is ... SEND IN THE COPS.

Azar noted in particular that many meatpacking workers live in congregate housing, allowing that more testing at facilities would help but that the bigger issue was employees' home environments. One possible solution was to send more law enforcement to those communities to better enforce social distancing rules, he added, according to two of the lawmakers on the call.

No, you're not having a stroke. The guy in charge of pandemic response is crafting policy based on his own racist assumptions about dirty immigrants living in tenements. He literally believes that all those workers walked into the plants sick because they live packed together like sardines, but they didn't transmit it on the job where they're ... packed in like sardines for eight hours a day, because that is just science. So the cops just need to, uh, tell those people that their living conditions are illegal, and this problem will be solved. But we can't pay them enough to afford decent housing where they don't catch disease, because then hamburger might cost $5/lb. Got it?


And he said all that on a phone call with multiple lawmakers assembled to discuss the coronavirus's effect on rural healthcare.

COOL.

"He was essentially turning it around, blaming the victim and implying that their lifestyle was the problem," New Hampshire Rep. Ann Kuster told Politico. "Their theory of the case is that they are not becoming infected in the meat processing plant, they're becoming infected because of the way they live in their home."

Interesting theory. The CDC doesn't seem to think much of it, though.

Qualitative data from the facility risk assessments identified common characteristics among processing facilities and their workers that might increase risk for transmitting or acquiring SARS-CoV-2 (Table 2). Facility challenges included structural and operational practices that made it difficult to maintain a 6-foot (2-meter) distance while working, especially on production lines, and in nonproduction settings during breaks and while entering and exiting facilities. The pace and physical demands of processing work made adherence to face covering recommendations difficult, with some workers observed covering only their mouths and frequently readjusting their face coverings while working. Some sites were also observed to have difficulty adhering to the heightened cleaning and disinfection guidance recommended for all worksites to reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission.

But the dirty immigrant theory does have adherents in the meatpacking industry, where Smithfield blamed the 850-plus covid-cluster at its Sioux Falls plant on the "large immigrant population," because, as a spokeswoman told BuzzFeed, "Living circumstances in certain cultures are different than they are with your traditional American family."

An HHS spokesperson called Politico's account of the call "an inaccurate representation of Secretary's Azar's comments during the discussion." Naturally this person would neither disclose the substance of the call, nor go on the record with his or her real name. But other than that, TOTALLY CREDIBLE.

Oh, and PS, while no one would argue that meatpacking workers are overpaid, the job site Indeed.com says that, "The average Smithfield Foods salary ranges from approximately $26,554 per year for Assembler to $75,186 per year for Truck Driver." Which qualifies as solidly middle class in the rural areas where the plants are located, particularly since most of these jobs offer health insurance. So forget that racist nonsense about dirty foreigners living in "congregate housing," whatever the fuck that might be. Not that Azar would ever be stupid enough to say a thing like that. Perish the very thought!

[Politico]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.

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