Chicago - Jul. 1, 2020
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The [Monday] Papers

"Meat-processing giant Smithfield Foods is closing two of its facilities in Illinois, its latest moves to shut down meatpacking plants due to the coronavirus pandemic," WBEZ reports.

The Kane County Health Department said Saturday that it ordered Smithfield to temporarily close its plant in west suburban St. Charles, where 325 people make pork products. The department said it took the action after hearing worker complaints that the plant wasn't following social distancing and cleaning guidelines.

Smithfield said it suspended operations at the plant voluntarily and is cooperating with health officials. But a local lawmaker, state Rep. Karina Villa, D-West Chicago, disputed that.

"It wasn't until Smithfield was refusing to communicate with the local county health department that they were mandated to close their doors," she said Saturday.

Smithfield is a repeat offender. In fact, the entire industry is filled with bad actors.

"Three of the nation's largest meat processors failed to provide protective gear to all workers, and some employees say they were told to continue working in crowded plants even while sick as the coronavirus spread around the country and turned the facilities into infection hot spots, a Washington Post investigation has found.

"The actions by three major meat producers - Tyson Foods, JBS USA and Smithfield Foods - continued even after federal guidelines on social distancing and personal protective equipment were published March 9, according to 25 interviews with employees, elected officials, regional health officials, union leaders and federal safety inspectors as well as dozens of documents, including worker complaints filed with local and federal officials."

And don't forget OSI's Rose Packing Company on the South Side - see the item "Meat Packing Mess."

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Back to WBEZ:

"The closing in St. Charles comes after Smithfield announced Friday that it will shutter operations at its Monmouth, Illinois, plant beginning Monday until further notice.

"A 'small portion' of the plant's 1,700 employees tested positive for COVID-19, Virginia-based Smithfield announced."

Don't they have to publicly report just how many people constitute a "small portion?"

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"Smithfield also has closed meatpacking plants in Cudahy, Wisconsin; Martin City, Missouri; and Sioux Falls, South Dakota."

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From the Sun-Times:

"The news comes after a lawsuit filed Thursday in Missouri federal court accused Smithfield of failing to provide employees at a Missouri plant adequate protective equipment, NBC News reported. The lawsuit also alleges that Smithfield refused to give employees time to wash their hands."

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Midwest governors should form a pact to deal with these folks, because this is just downright immoral: Meatpackers' Dilemma: Health vs. Paycheck.

"[Bernabe] Rodriguez immigrated from Mexico to Chicago, but the city's crime rate scared him. His sister, who worked at the plant, suggested he visit in 2001. He fell in love with Columbus Junction's slower pace, raised two children here and started two businesses."

Every night felt like a drawn-out countdown, a staring contest with his alarm clock's red lights.

A mysterious pain shot into Bernabe Rodriguez's chest. He felt cold. A headache pulsed in his temples. Fifteen minutes passed. He turned from his back onto his belly.

Thirty minutes passed. He was afraid to sleep. He wondered if he had an infection. He wondered if he had cancer. Whatever the illness, he wondered if it had already progressed too far. The pain shifted from his chest into his ribs.

"It feels like you put a knife into it," he said. "You have to move in the next direction, hoping it doesn't hurt much . . . I was almost yelling. There was so much pain."

Rodriguez, 52, tested positive for COVID-19, one of 261 cases confirmed in rural Louisa County as of Thursday, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. He doesn't know specifically how he was infected, though he knows where to look: the Tyson Foods pork processing plant on Iowa Highway 70, one mile north of Rodriguez's used car lot, bar and events hall in the middle of Columbus Junction. Two family members work at the plant. As of last week, he said, eight of his relatives had the virus.

And yet: "Mayor Mark Huston said Tyson has done 'everything they know' to protect workers."

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Meanwhile, in Indiana . . .

"Tyson Foods Inc. announced Wednesday that it will temporarily close its meatpacking plant in north-central Indiana after 146 employees tested positive for coronavirus."

Obviously these aren't isolated incidents but a systemic, company-wide, industry-wide problem. And it didn't just start with COVID-19, though hopefully that's where it will end.

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The related news out of Nebraska: Meatpacking Woes Lead Farmers To Consider Euthanizing Hogs, Holding Back Market-Ready Cattle.

(The same with two million chickens in Delaware and Maryland.)

Of course, a functioning federal government would be on top of all this. Unfortunately, we don't currently have a functioning federal government. As a result, the meat supply in the wealthiest, most powerful nation the world has ever known is threatened.

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"This all could have been prevented," Debbie Berkowitz, a former senior OSHA official who is an expert on meat processing plants, told the Washington Post. "Workers are paying with their lives and their health because their industry decided not to implement basic safety precautions and OSHA decided to bury its head in the sand and tell workers 'You're on your own.'"

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Playing House
So this is still "purportedly" and "apparently" a West Side house party. Let's not report it as real, then, until we know it's real, mmmkay?

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New on the Beachwood . . .

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #301: Ryan Pace's Last Dance
A draft about nothing. Plus: The Latest Last Dance; Cubs Mailbag; The Minnesota Blackhawks; Sky Watch; GRONK!; and the World's Greatest Race Car Driver.

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TrackNotes: Hot Times In Hot Springs
Our man on the rail is quite happy that the postponed Kentucky Derby has recentered the horse racing world.

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Send Everyone A Ballot
It's the only way to guarantee that everyone has the option of voting safely on Election Day, even if in-person voting must be restricted for public health reasons.

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Immigrants And Epidemics
"Throughout American history, one of the themes of American xenophobia has been fear of the foreign-born because they are either disease-bringers to the United States, or else because they come in such poor physical condition that they're going to end up being a public charge, and unable to support themselves and be productive members of American society, in an economic sense. So it's been a key theme throughout our history. And in moments of epidemic, those allegations - that the foreign-born are disease-bringers - become especially salient and significant."

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ChicagoReddit

I've always loved walking by this flowerpot man in Irving Park, a couple of days ago he got a mask! from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

"Only In Chicago" / Barry Manilow

Warning: This is so awful it could cause long-term damage. Listen at your own risk.

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BeachBook

When Bubonic Plague First Struck America, Officials Tried To Cover It Up.

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Cubs Fan Dillinger Played Baseball Before He Robbed Banks.

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Saying Goodbye To The Lovely, Gentle Kizzie.

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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The Beachwood Q-TIp Line: People suck. And you let them.



Permalink

Posted on April 27, 2020


MUSIC - This Summer's Soundtrack Started Here.
TV - M*A*S*H Theme Song's Weird History.
POLITICS - SCOTUS Blesses Church + State.
SPORTS - Tip Your Cap To The Negro Leagues.

BOOKS - The Legacy Of Racism For Children.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - The Chagall Windows.


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