The Perdue Farms chicken company wants to tell doctors how to treat coronavirus patients, and Donald Trump wants to let them. The Washington Post reports that Perdue Farms sent letters to multiple health care providers on Virginia's Eastern Shore instructing them to "advise their patients who have been in close contact with someone with the novel coronavirus to spend only about a week away from work, instead of the two weeks that most doctors have been recommending." Because when you want up-to-date medical advice, who better to turn to than a giant agribusiness processor.

Two weeks ago, the president shouted that he was going to issue a royal proclamation immunizing meatpacking companies so that those essential workers could be herded back onto production lines to be exposed to coronavirus without exposing their employers to civil liability. In reality, he waved vaguely in the direction of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue (no relation), and instructed him to do something or other to keep meat cheap.

In the event, "something or other" turns out to be issuing OSHA and CDC guidelines so larded down with "if feasibles" and "should considers" and "to the extent possibles" as to be entirely meaningless. Because the spice chicken must flow!

All over the country, meatpacking plants, which force workers into close proximity for hours on end, are loci of coronavirus outbreaks. Perdue's own plant on Maryland's Eastern Shore in Salisbury, is the center of a major covid cluster. Nevertheless, the company chafes against those nosy parker doctors who keep workers off the line after exposure to an infected person.

"We cannot continue operations if employees are sent home by local clinics without firm diagnoses," Perdue Farms' chief medical advisor Roger Merrill wrote in an April 29 email to community health provider Eastern Shore Rural Health.

Citing supposed CDC guidelines, Merrill insisted that isolation "can be discontinued after 7 days from onset of symptoms if at least 3 days have elapsed since fever of 100.4 [degrees] as long as respiratory symptoms are improving." This language appears to be lifted from CDC guidance for medical workers, since the advice for essential workers just mumbles some nonsense about wearing a mask, not smoking, and not congregating in the break room. Which is possibly why they sent it to the smaller clinics dependent on Perdue workers to keep the lights on, and didn't try this shit with the actual hospital.

Nancy Stern, chief executive of Eastern Shore Rural Health, told the Post, "I believe it is in the best interest of the Eastern Shore community not to respond to your question. We continue to collaborate and take pride in our relationships with businesses and health-care providers." And who can blame her, right?

Perdue spokesperson Diana Souder painted the email as an effort "to coordinate with these important partners as well as underscore Perdue's prioritization of our associates' safety. We have proactively opened a dialogue with community leaders, including health care providers, in the areas where we have production facilities, who share our goal of keeping people healthy. The safety and well-being of our associates is our top concern, and we recognize that successfully fighting this pandemic requires a community-wide approach."


South Korea, which got its first case the same day as the US and immediately imposed aggressive contact tracing, testing, and quarantine measures, managed to hold its death toll to 256. The MAGATs will roar that the US is six times as large as Korea, and thus comparisons are meaningless. Except that six times 256 is 1,590, which is a far cry from 80,000 deaths with no end in sight. And half the population of Korea lives in the greater Seoul Metropolitan area, a region more densely packed than New York City.

We could have done this. We just chose not to. Because Donald Trump didn't want to spook the stock market in an election year, so he downplayed the danger until it was too late and tens of thousands of people were already dead.

So instead of a serious, coordinated response, we've got pablum from the CDC about temperature checks and maybe possibly installing plexiglass dividers between work stations, and companies leaning on dependent healthcare providers to issue a clean bill of health to get workers back on the production line, outbreaks be damned.

Oh, sorry, we mean "coordinat[ing] with these important partners as well as underscor[ing] Perdue's prioritization of our associates' safety." They're doing it for the workers. You bet!


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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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