Federal Government Helps Meat Plants Amid Closures

The latest in COVID-19

Quick Take

  • President Trump declares meat processing plants as critical infrastructure to ensure facilities remain open.

  • Vice President Mike Pence defies a policy to wear a face mask at a medical center in Rochester, NY.

  • The biggest operator of malls plans to reopen shopping centers across the United States.

  • Bank of America claims the SBA only approved 1,000 of its 184,000 loan applications from small businesses.

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A total of 60,000 Americans have lost their lives due to coronavirus, topping more casualties than the Vietnam War. Confirmed coronavirus cases in the country are nearing 1.1 million.

Meat Plants Declared Critical Infrastructure

President Trump has announced he will declare meat processing plants as critical infrastructure to ensure that facilities around the country remain open as the government attempts to prevent shortages of pork, chicken, and beef as a result of the pandemic.

The action came as thousands of processing plant workers have become sick, resulting in the closure of some facilities. The head of Tyson Foods had also warned that millions of pounds of meat would disappear from the supply chain. Unions and labor advocates say the administration needs to do more to protect workers who often work shoulder to shoulder in refrigerated assembly lines. Thousands of meatpacking workers have already been infected and at least 20 have died.

At least 13 meatpacking and food processing plants have closed at some point in the past two months, resulting in a 25 percent reduction in the nation’s pork slaughter capacity and a 10 percent reduction in beef slaughter capacity.

Minnesota’s Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen said he wasn’t surprised by the president’s executive order. Petersen said Minnesota farmers are facing a very sobering situation as they try to keep their plants open. Minnesota started depopulating its hog and turkey populations by about 70,000 animals each week. Petersen said the state is open to anything that would get processing plants running again, but it has to be done in a way that makes workers feel safe.

Mike Pence Defies Policy To Wear Face Mask

Vice President Mike Pence has received much criticism for defying Mayo Clinic policy by not wearing a mask during his visit to the medical center. The non-profit organization requests that all patients, visitors, and personnel bring and wear a face mask to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Pence has since responded to the criticism, saying he and his surrounding team is tested for the virus on a regular basis. He also said he was following CDC guidelines because they indicated that masks are good for preventing the spread of the virus for those who already have it.

Pence said the reason he didn’t wear a mask was so he could speak to researchers and health care personnel by looking to them in the eye. After the visit, the Mayo Clinic tweeted that it had “informed @VP of the masking policy prior to his arrival today.” The clinic then deleted the tweet. Public health experts say his argument for not wearing a mask in public was unsound.

Malls Reopen Across America

Simon Property Group, the biggest operator of malls in the United States, has come up with a plan for reopening 49 shopping centers across 10 states starting on Friday.  Plans include spread out seating in food courts, a ban on reusable trays, closed-off play areas, and drinking fountains, and taped-off sinks and urinals in mall restrooms. Security officers and employees will also actively remind and encourage shoppers to maintain a social distance. The company plans to open shopping centers in Texas, Indiana, Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alaska, and Mississippi.

Wyoming Reopens Nonessential Businesses

Wyoming is now the latest state to reopen nonessential businesses this week. Under the new guidance, gyms and salons will be allowed to open as long as they maintain social distancing and record the contact information of all customers to allow for contact tracing in the event of an outbreak. Gatherings of 10 or more people are still prohibited, including inside businesses.

In-person dining will continue to be prohibited and restaurants can only allow up to five people at a time indoors to wait for their food. All employees in a retail business must also wear masks. Some businesses in North Dakota and Tennessee are also set to reopen on Friday. And in South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem reassured the Mt. Rushmore firework show set for July 3 will happen as scheduled.

SBA Only Approved 1,000 BofA Loan Applications

The SBA has resumed accepting Paycheck Protection Program applications from participating lenders this week. The loan program had previously run out of funding amid high demand from small businesses. Last week, the federal government agreed to replenish the program with an additional $350 billion. The Paycheck Protection Program offers low-interest and forgivable loans to small businesses that keep their workers on the payroll for at least eight weeks.

There has been much speculation over the application approval process though. Bank of America claims to have sent 184,000 applications to the SBA on behalf of clients, but only 1,000 of those loans have been approved so far. The SBA has approved over half-a-million loans valued at over $55 billion. To learn more about how to apply for the program, head over to sba.gov/paycheckprotection.

Everyone Who Needs A Test Get One 

White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci says that everyone who needs a test will be able to get a test by the end of May or the beginning of June. He added that needing a test is much different than just wanting a test. Dr. Fauci also said that the federal government has to provide strategic guidance and there needs to be a productive partnership between the government and the states.

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