By Robert A. Vella
Yesterday, President Trump issued an executive order to force meat processing plants to reopen despite the dangers posed to its workers by COVID-19 and without any requirement for companies to provide medical testing and personal protective equipment. The order is an implementation of the Defense Production Act which Trump has continually refused to use to remedy the national shortage of medical supplies. His priorities stand in stark contrast to most Americans’ and this reality is becoming clearer to Republican politicians.
As the world tries to wage a desperate war against the coronavirus pandemic, it is increasingly being undermined by political extremists who are becoming much more aggressive in advancing their ideological views as a counterattack against natural human sympathies for the victims of COVID-19. They are attempting to desensitize people to the mounting number of infections and deaths while delegitimizing governmental actions to reverse this calamitous public health crisis. Mostly, these political extremists are of the right-wing persuasion but there are also left-wing anarchists who have joined them. What they all share in common, however, is animosity towards democratic governance and antipathy towards professional expertise particularly in science and medicine.
Here’s today’s news:
Citing his authority under the Defense Production Act, Trump declared in an executive order that “it is important that processors of beef, pork, and poultry (‘meat and poultry’) in the food supply chain continue operating and fulfilling orders to ensure a continued supply of protein for Americans.”
Critics said the forced openings – some plants have closed because so many employees contracted the coronavirus – threaten the safety of workers who remain vulnerable to the disease.
Trump also told reporters he would seek to shield meat plants from legal liability if they are sued by employees who contract coronavirus while on the job. While Trump only mentioned Tyson Foods specifically, he suggested his plan would protect other businesses from liability as well.
Some lawmakers have also called for liability shields to protect businesses in court if they are sued, though they would likely be challenged in court. Judges would ultimately decide whether coronavirus lawsuits against businesses can go forward.
Meat processing plant workers are concerned about President Donald Trump’s executive order that compels plants to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic. Some say they expect staff will refuse to come to work.
CNN Business has spoken to employees in several Tyson plants who do not want to be named for fear of losing their jobs.
On Tuesday, Trump signed the order after some companies, such as Tyson Foods, were considering only keeping 20% of their facilities open. The vast majority of processing plants could have shut down — which would have reduced processing capacity in the country by as much as 80%, an official familiar with the order told CNN.
Republicans in the Senate are under growing pressure to take the administration to task for its response to the coronavirus.
GOP senators, with a few exceptions, have been reluctant to criticize the administration, but they are starting to re-evaluate that kid-glove treatment amid public frustration over the lack of virus testing kits and protective equipment and reports of taxpayer dollars going to questionable causes.
Some GOP strategists say it would be smart for Republican senators to use oversight to distance themselves from some of the administration’s problems and to burnish their reputations with independents.
Republicans have a 53-47 seat majority, but the Senate is increasingly seen as in play this fall given the health and economic crises the nation is suffering.
Donald Trump’s longtime close relationship with Fox News, like so many other unions in the time of lockdown, is beginning to buckle under pressure, with an increasingly sensitive president furious at the conservative media channel.
Trump has attacked the conservative channel in recent days, accusing the usually uncritical network of being “fed Democratic talking points”, with some observers suggesting his ire may have been caused in part by a string of anti-Trump ads due to run on Fox News this week.
The breakdown between president and news channel was laid bare in a string of tweets from Trump on Sunday evening. Trump has occasionally criticized Fox News in recent months, but this attack went further, as Trump declared he wants “an alternative now”.