Tag Archives: Coronavirus

Washington, D.C. – Thursday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 266, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, legislation to provide additional COVID-19 response funds for hospitals and small businesses. House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member K. Michael Conaway (TX-11) released the following statement after voting in favor of this legislation:

“America’s farmers and ranchers have suffered through a recession in the farm economy that is now in its seventh year, devastating natural disasters, and now a global health pandemic that has altered life as we know it. During this trying time, rural America has been working overtime to keep grocery stores stocked and food on our tables. This legislation, which is weeks overdue thanks to needless delays at the hands of Speaker Pelosi, funds the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL), which are quite literally saving small businesses from collapse. It also clarifies that agricultural producers now have access to both of these critical resources.

“While additional help for America’s farm families will almost certainly be needed, this bill does extend a critical interim lifeline to farmers and ranchers who are struggling.”

Lawmakers reached an agreement Tuesday to allow agriculture to participate in the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. The agreement is part of a larger deal, a $484 billion coronavirus package to extend the Paycheck Protection Program.

The agreement also includes funds for small lenders and community banks, funds for national coronavirus testing and funding for hospitals. The bill includes an additional $60 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Senator John Hoeven, a Republican from North Dakota, told the Hagstrom Report, “farmers and ranchers are working hard to continue providing our nation with food, fuel and fiber, and this is one way we can help support them during this pandemic.”

The provision means ag businesses can now apply for low-interest loans through the program and may also qualify for the $10,000 emergency grants. To be eligible, ag businesses will have to show that they have been hurt by the economic downturn caused by coronavirus.

Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department (ELVPHD) continues to investigate a COVID-19 outbreak at Tyson in Madison, NE. At this time, there are a total of nine confirmed cases stemming from employees of that Tyson plant. In addition, there are an additional 47 COVID-19 tests pending in the health district, and it is unknown at this time whether any of those 47 pending tests are those of any Tyson employees or direct household contacts of Tyson employees.

At this time, ELVPHD is leading the investigation of these cases as the public health authority and has extended an invitation to Tyson to participate in this process for the purposes of internal plant containment and safe, continued operations. ELVPHD will continue to apply the quarantine directives for symptomatic contacts of workers under Nebraska’s Directed Health Measures, as well as the contact tracing of the asymptomatic, exposed contacts inside and outside of work.

As of Monday afternoon, Tyson plant management has cooperated in the containment process. Next steps outside of the investigation of confirmed cases include additional testing of symptomatic employees, an in-person site visit at the plant, and dissemination of materials to all employees regarding measures to minimize the spread and exposure in the community outside of work.

As this outbreak investigation continues, additional testing results, case numbers related to Tyson, and any further updates will be provided to the public.

On the evening of Thursday, April 16th, Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department (ELVPHD) was made aware of two confirmed COVID-19 cases—both employees at Tyson in Madison, NE. At this time, there are a total of six confirmed cases stemming from employees of that Tyson plant. An additional 30+ tests are pending at this time from Tyson employees or direct household contacts of Tyson employees.

On the prior evening of April 15th, our department was notified of the statewide initiative to increase COVID-19 testing in the area and were advised that a mass testing event was to be offered in the ELVPHD district for up to 100 patrons in coordination with DHHS, Nebraska Public Health Lab and military personnel. After learning of the positive cases at Tyson in Madison, ELVPHD made the decision to earmark the majority of the 100 tests for Tyson employees and/or household members of Tyson employees. Initially, support was achieved from both corporate and local Tyson leaders.

On Friday evening, April 17th, our department was notified in writing from Tyson Vice President in Arkansas that upon further reflection, Tyson was declining to provide names of any Tyson team members as requested by our department. Further, the notice stated that Tyson did not see that providing team member information to us was necessary, as they believed that the testing should be reserved for other groups stating that they had not identified symptomatic Tyson team members who had not been tested.

Through public advertising, the screening event schedule was filled the evening of Friday, April 17th. Of those Tyson employees requesting a test through the public scheduling solicitation, the majority of those were reporting symptoms in conjunction with their request to be tested.

ELVPHD made several recommendations (in writing) to Tyson on Friday, April 17th, reiterating that utmost attention to stopping spread and exposures in the plant now could procure immense gain in outbreak control in the days and weeks ahead. Tyson was asked to immediately begin the following:

1. Excuse from work the high risk exposures immediately without punishment or retaliation towards the affected employees;
a. Employees reporting illness must be excused per the Directed Health Measures which include two weeks of quarantine;
b. Symptoms must be screened at the point of entry each day for each employee. Somebody in management or nursing should oversee this for each employee. Anyone with fever OR cough OR sore throat must be excused from work immediately. This must be communicated to the employees that a worker will be sent home, no exceptions, regardless of his/her carpooling arrangements. We also ordered a supervised mid-day symptom screen of all employees to promptly identify anyone that should develop symptoms midday.

2. Increase measures to prevent spread and exposure in the lunchroom, cafeteria, breakrooms and/or locker rooms. This included not gathering in groups in these areas of the plant, and discontinue practices of buffet lines, shared serving utensils or condiments, and disallowing refillable cups and mugs;

3. Discontinue the practice of shared helmets, headsets, business radios, water fountains, etc.;

4. Disinfecting as a priority, and it is one that will likely require more manpower and resources. Hourly disinfection of door handles, vending buttons, bathrooms, time clock buttons, any spigots or nozzles that employees are touching, handles/levers/knobs/buttons on steering wheels of heavy machinery. Although every example could not be provided, plant leaders were encouraged to walk through the plant and notice what is being touched repeatedly, as well as items that a large number of employee touch, such as bathroom stalls, toilet flushers, soap dispenser buttons, push buttons for air dryers should have hourly wipe down. More often is even better.

5. Masks—all employees mask at all times while in the plant until further notice—this includes in commons areas and must include covering of the nose and mouth for all employees. Tyson was asked to creatively think of a way to have employees eat their meals and continue operation without congregating unmasked. This includes carpooling. Those carpooling should be encouraged to commute in mask.

As this outbreak investigation continues, testing results, case numbers related to Tyson, and any further updates will be provided to the public.

Two experts on the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and China say the impact of the coronavirus on the Chinese economy doesn’t bode well for the Phase One Trade Deal. They tell the South China Morning Post that COVID-19 has likely rendered the pact between the world’s two largest economies “stillborn.”

The economic impact will only add to pressure on Beijing to reform its domestic economy. The Post says China had high levels of debt before the virus outbreak, plus, the private sector struggles to regain momentum will likely put a damper on consumption.

Rhodium  Group founder Daniel Rosen and former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd both say consumption will be limited to the point that it will be almost impossible for Beijing to fulfill its buying commitments. “The extraordinary stimulus that got China out of the financial crisis in 2008-2009, which they were applauded for, is simply not an option today,” Rosen says.

“The easy credit given to support the country’s state-owned enterprises in recent years is too high.” Rudd says the Chinese government won’t do another stimulus strategy like the last one, even though the need is much greater.” The negative assessment runs counter to the expectations of President Trump, who says he’s confident China will follow through on its obligations.

The impact of COVID-19 could cost the pork industry a collective five-billion dollars in losses through the end of this year. National Pork Producers Council President A-V Roth from Wisconsin says the suspension of pork packing plant operations and rising employee absenteeism due to COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing harvest facility capacity challenge due to a labor shortage in rural America…

The suspension of pork packing plant operations and rising employee absenteeism due to COVID-19 has exacerbated a problem for pork producers. With limited harvest capacity, a surplus of pigs exists. Michael Formica – National Pork producers Council Assistant Vice President, Domestic Policy – says they have been working with E-P-A on ways to keep the backlog of hogs on farms….

An economist with Iowa State University estimates that hog farmers will lose nearly $37 per hog for each hog marketed for the rest of the year. Dr. Dermot Hayes calculations point to a five billion dollar impact collectively this year. National Pork Producers Council Vice President of Industry Relations Dallas Hockman says they are asking USDA for immediate help, particularly a one billion dollar purchase of pork products that were headed for the foodservice sector…

Roth says the pork industry is based on a just-in-time inventory system. Hogs are backing up on farms with nowhere to go, leaving farmers with few choices. He’s asking the federal government to make equitable support payments to all pork producers, and make farmers eligible for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

Read more on this here:  http://nppc.org/hog-farmers-face-covid-19-financial-crisis/.