Airline Passengers Eli and Maria are seen wearing hazmat suits at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport on Thanksgiving. (Credit: mpi04/MediaPunch /IPX)
On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggested two “alternatives” to a 14-day quarantine after you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, saying people who can’t do that can end their quarantine after seven days, followed by a negative test, or end it after 10 days without a positive test.
“We can safely reduce the length of quarantine, but accepting that there is a small residual risk that a person who is leaving quarantine early could transmit to someone else if they became infected,” Dr. John Brooks, the CDC’s chief medical officer for its COVID-19 response, said at a Wednesday news briefing.
In the same briefing, CDC officials also reiterated that people should avoid traveling for the Christmas holiday. However, the 10.4 million people who were screened through TSA between November 20 and November 30 because of Thanksgiving strongly suggests a lot of people won’t listen.
“Travel is a door-to-door experience that can spread the virus during the journey and into communities where travelers visit or live,” Dr. Cindy Friedman of the CDC said. “We know it’s a hard decision, and people need time to prepare and have discussions with family and friends and to make these decisions.”
On Tuesday, the CDC’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices recommended that healthcare workers and nursing home patients should be the first to receive the coronavirus vaccine during the initial phase of the rollout. The measure passed through the committee 13-1 and was adopted by CDC director Robert Redfield, according to the agency. Ultimately, however, the decision about who gets vaccine priority will be made by the states.
Lawsuit Alleges Tyson Foods Managers Lied to Interpreters About COVID Risk
Managers at a Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo, Iowa, lied to language interpreters about the outbreak of coronavirus inside the plant, and about being cleared by regulators for safe working conditions, according to an amended complaint in a lawsuit filed on behalf of workers who died there.
The lawsuit alleges that during a closed-door meeting in early April, plant manager Tom Hart and human resources director James Hook directed interpreters for non-English speaking employees to tell workers that there were “no confirmed cases” of COVID-19 at the plant and that the Black Hawk County Health Department had “cleared” the plant to operate. Hook and Hart also “explicitly forbid interpreters from discussing COVID-19” except for those two things, according to the suit.
However, there were confirmed cases at the plant at the time, and the health department hadn’t cleared it to operate, according to the lawsuit. It goes on to allege that in April, “one or more” Tyson managers told USDA inspectors not to wear masks inside the Waterloo plant because it would “send the wrong message,” and that supervisors “permitted or encouraged” sick and exposed workers to continue working at the facility.
In one instance, an employee who vomited on the production line was allowed to continue working, and in another, a worker who had tested positive was told to keep coming to work, according to the lawsuit.
Hart and other supervisors were suspended by Tyson last month after the same lawsuit alleged that Hart “organized a cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many employees would test positive for COVID-19.”
The new amended complaint was filed on Nov. 24. The lawsuit was initially filed in June on behalf of three families whose loved ones worked at the plant and died of complications from COVID-19. It names Tyson Foods, its top officials, and managers at the Iowa plant as defendants in the suit. The initial lawsuit was filed in June, and the new allegations were first reported by the Des Moines Register this week.
Tyson was forced to close its Waterloo plant for two weeks in the spring. By the time it reopened in early May, more than 1,000 workers had tested positive for coronavirus. So far, more than 11,000 Tyson Foods workers nationwide have tested positive for coronavirus and 36 employees have died, according to data collected by the Food and Environmental Reporting Network (FERN).
Moderate Senators unveil $908 billion relief bill
A group of moderate Senators unveiled a pared-down COVID-relief package on Tuesday, which would replenish unemployment insurance payments and the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), but offer no stimulus checks. It would also put a temporary moratorium on COVID-related lawsuits.
The plan, released by Sens. Joe Manchin, Mitt Romney, and Lisa Murkowski, includes $288 billion for the PPP, $180 billion for federal unemployment benefits (which means people would receive about $300 per week, down from $600 per week in the CARES Act that passed earlier this year), $250 billion in aid for state, tribal, and local governments, and $16 billion for vaccine development and distribution.
As both Romney and Manchin have pointed out, the majority of the money—some $560 billion—is repurposing unspent money from the first stimulus, meaning the total new cost of the package is actually $348 billion.
Manchin blamed partisanship for the lack of a deal on coronavirus relief. “Our leadership’s in a stalemate both in the Senate and over in the House,” Manchin told Fox News Wednesday. (The House has passed two stimulus bills, one for $3.4 trillion in May and another for $2.2 trillion in October.)
“People who think it’s too much and people who think it’s not enough, maybe we’ve hit the sweet spot,” Manchin added.
So far, though, it seems that’s not the case. During a Tuesday press conference, Sen. Mitch McConnell was asked about the Manchin framework and implied that the bill was wasting time, while questioning President Donald Trump’s willingness to sign the bill into law.
“A good place to start is are we actually making a law, or are we just making a point?” McConnell said. “And I think the way you make a law for sure is you know you’ve got a presidential signature.” On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump would sign a reworked relief bill from McConnell that would give no aid to states, a paltry one-month extension of unemployment benefits, and include a liability shield for businesses from COVID-related lawsuits, despite Trump’s earlier insistence that a new stimulus should “go big or go home.”
Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who backs the Manchin framework, said Tuesday that McConnell’s proposal “is going to be a partisan bill that is not going to become law. And I want a bill that will become law.”
Progressives also slammed the bill, including Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who criticized the lack of direct assistance in the form of stimulus checks.
“It’s critical that we have another stimulus check,” she tweeted. “This proposal ignores the fact that 8 mill[ion] more people have fallen into poverty due to this pandemic, many of which are families with children.”