Klobuchar, Smith: What is the Trump Administration doing to protect food workers?
By Sarah Mearhoff
ST. PAUL — Minnesota’s U.S. Sens Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, along with 34 other colleagues, have signed a letter to Trump Administration officials after a wave of COVID-19 infections has swept through Midwestern food processing facilities.
In a Monday, April 20, letter, the senators asked how officials in the White House, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Homeland Security are responding to the outbreaks in order to protect essential workers in farms, processing facilities and grocery stores, as well as the country’s food supply chain. They wrote that many workers are risking their wellbeing, some feeling scared but pressured to work, and COVID-related closures of facilities threaten the country’s supply chain.Further exacerbating these issues is the country’s persistent shortages of coronavirus testing and personal protective equipment (often dubbed PPE) for essential workers. The lesser PPE available, the more essential workers may fall ill and further strain the supply chain and economy, they wrote.Monday’s letter comes as positive COVID-19 cases have forced two meatpacking facilities in Minnesota, JBS USA in Worthington and Comfrey Farm Prime Pork in Windom, to temporarily shutter. The Smithfield Pork Plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., also had to close as its number of factory-linked cases soared to nearly 900, making the facility one of the nation’s largest coronavirus hotspots.The senators asked the cabinet officials a series of seven questions on their plans to address food worker safety issues, such as collaboration with local governments and the private sector, increasing testing capacity and PPE availability and ensuring workers are communicated health and sanitation best practices.