If you've been watching your nightly Rachel Maddow [or reading Wonkette, EVAN], you know that one of the main places the novel coronavirus is just absolutely exploding right now is in meatpacking plants and the communities that surround them. All over the place, these plants — many run by great big companies like Smithfield and Tyson and JBS — are either closing because they found one million coronas and everybody's sick, or they're opening back up because they don't care it's definitely all fixed now, and everything in between.

So it stands to reason that America's meat prince Donald Trump issued a HEREBY DECLARE executive order that all his precious meatmaking facilities must remain open. Because MEAT!

Trump has been reluctant to use actual powers he has, like invoking the Defense Production Act to make sure doctors have PPE and hospitals have ventilators, but he sure did invoke it to make sure America's delicious meats are able to make their full journey from the plant all the way into his Big Macs which go in his mouth. How can the White House chef burn him steaks and slather them with ketchup if the meat plants are closed? Clearly an untenable situation.

Explaining his order, Trump said, "It was a very unique circumstance because of liability." In other words, he is trying to shield Tyson and Smithfield and the others from liability like we explained with Mitch McConnell yesterday, in case all their workers and their families get sick and/or die of coronavirus. (A worker in Missouri has already sued a Smithfield plant there.)


As Maddow noted last night, the Centers for Disease Control, which has been shunted to the side during the coronavirus pandemic ever since Rod Rosenstein's mean CDC sister Nancy Messonnier said coronavirus was going to be bad, issued guidelines last week, helpful suggestions, on how meat plants might more safely package meats without a bunch of workers getting sick and barfing virus into your bacon. Maddow noted that it was particularly weird because the CDC doesn't tend to do helpful suggestions, but rather just fuckin' tells people and companies what they have to do in public health crises like this. But for Trump's CDC, it's helpful suggestions. The Washington Post reports that Trump's order kneecaps even those helpful suggestions, with worker safety experts saying they "fear that it would also undercut newly issued federal health guidelines designed to put space between plant workers."

The Post quotes former Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) official and meat expert Debbie Berkowitz, who also appeared on Maddow last evening:

"These outbreaks that have sickened thousands and killed dozens were not inevitable in the meat industry," said Debbie Berkowitz, a former senior OSHA official who is an expert on meat processing plants. "If OSHA had started enforcement, employers like the meatpacking industry who don't prioritize safety voluntarily would have implemented the CDC guidance and prevented these outbreaks of death and disease in meatpacking."

So that is awesome. In other words, she is saying this is not an industry that plays well with "helpful suggestions," and you have to tell them what the hell to do. And if the federal government had done something about it before finally getting around to issuing helpful suggestions last week, then maybe we wouldn't be in this crisis.

Berkowitz notes in the Post that Trump's order also kneecaps local authorities' ability to force meat plants to act right:

"The president has just undermined all efforts to stop the spread of the disease in plants," Berkowitz said. "He is essentially saying they must be allowed to operate and that there should be no specific requirements plants must follow to stop the spread of this disease."

Look, we love meats as much as the next meat-eater. But we also think it's pretty fucking important that the people who do that work to get meats from farm to table to our belly work under safe conditions, and that they don't get sick and/or die of coronavirus because they work in giant meaty super-spreader germ-processing facilities. Apparently Donald Trump does not agree.

The Post reports that 20 — 20! — meatpacking plants have closed recently because of aggravated COVIDs. At least 20 workers have died, that we know of, so far. Milan and St. Joseph, Missouri; Worthington and Willmar, Minnesota; Cass County, Indiana; Waterloo, Iowa; Greeley, Colorado; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Grand Island, Nebraska; the Eastern Shore of Virginia ... it's everywhere.

Go play with the New York Times map of where the biggest coronavirus outbreaks are, and look where they list the counties and the metro areas with the highest cases per capita. These days, most of the counties at the top have either prisons, or they have meatpacking plants.

Small metro areas with large meatpacking industries are seeing some of the country's highest rates of growth in cases. In the county that includes Waterloo, Iowa, cases grew tenfold over two weeks amid an outbreak sickened hundreds of people at a Tyson plant. In Cass County, Ind., where dozens more Tyson workers fell ill, the number of known cases surged from 52 to more than 1,000 over 10 days. And in the county that includes Green Bay, Wis., where there are outbreaks at three meatpacking facilities, cases grew to 920 from 97 in a two-week stretch.

Yeah, what a "blue state" problem coronavirus is, Mitch McConnell. Better not do a stay-at-home order or anything, GOP governors!

The unions that represent all these workers are going ballistic. According to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, fully 6,500 people "are sick or have been exposed while working near someone who tested positive." That's not sustainable.

The Post quotes Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia on just how stupid Trump's order is all the way around:

"If President Trump orders people to work in meat processing plants but refuses to protect their health and safety," Scott said, "the result will be more preventable illnesses, the tragic deaths of workers across the country, and ultimately, an actual reduction in food production as meat processing plants run out of healthy workers."

Oh, you mean Trump's very order might actually fuck the food supply, while also fucking workers? Have you ever heard of anything more Trumpy in your entire life?

All of this is outrageous, so here is your Rachel Maddow video from last night, to make you more outraged.

[Washington Post]

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Evan Hurst

Evan Hurst is the senior editor of Wonkette, which means he is the boss of you, unless you are Rebecca, who is boss of him. His dog Lula is judging you right now.

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