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Tyson ‘cleared to open’ ● Too soon to relax ● Public Service Army

Tuesday, May 5, 2020




► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, May 5 — The most recent count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 15,462 infections (up 277 from yesterday) and 841 deaths (up 7), according to the state Department of Health.

► From The Stranger — King County Courthouse screener dies after contracting the coronavirus — On Sunday, Julieta Degracia (a member of Teamsters Local 117) died with COVID-19 on the same day her husband and daughter were released from the hospital. “She had a beautiful smile and always had a kind word and warm greeting for everyone,” said King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht. “She was also incredibly thoughtful, often bringing back gifts for her co-workers from trips to her native Philippines.” Degracia is survived by her husband, to whom she’d been married for 47 years, three children, and three grandchildren. Her husband is also a screener at the King County Juvenile Court Youth Services Center.

► From the Seattle Times — Washington’s largest meat-packing plant, hard-hit by COVID-19, to reopen Tuesday — Tyson Foods on Tuesday will resume limited operations for its meat-packing plant in Walla Walla County, which has been hit by a major outbreak of the COVID-19 disease that prompted a late April closure… Meghan Debolt, director of the department community health for Walla Walla County, said Monday that Tyson “is cleared to open with healthy workers.” … Two Tyson workers have died after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, including 65-year-old Jorge Leandro Guijarro Castaneda, who died May 1 after many years of employment there. He started feeling sick in March. Initially, he kept going to work at the plant, where his job involved cleaning up work areas, according to a friend.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Meghan “Cleared to Open” Debolt is the same person who, when she knew Tyson had 40-plus infected workers back on April 16, allowed the plant to stay open for weeks longer because she believes furloughed Tyson workers couldn’t be trusted to stay at home and might wander around the community exposing others. So, for the sake of the community, it was better to have Tyson employees working in a known COVID-19 hotspot. How’d that strategy work out, Meghan?

► From the Tri-City Herald — 18% of Tri-Cities coronavirus cases linked to Tyson plant. Federal inspectors also tested — Three more workers at the Tyson Fresh Meats plant near the Tri-Cities have tested positive for COVID-19, health officials said Monday afternoon. It brings the total positive tests to 147 out of 1,239, or nearly 12 percent, for the group tested since the plant shutdown. At least another 104 workers tested positive before the plant was closed.

► From the Tri-City Herald — COVID-19 rampant at meat plants. Trump and Tyson Foods must help workers (editorial) — If workers at meat packing plants like Tyson Fresh Meats near Pasco are considered essential, then they should have all the protection they can get. If social distancing means the production line is slowed, then so be it. Employee health must matter more than profits.

The Stand (April 29) — UFCW: Trump meatpacking order needs worker protections

► From the Seattle Times — Amazon vice president resigns to protest firing of employee activists — Tim Bray, a veteran technologist and one of Amazon’s top engineers, resigned from what he called “the best job I’ve ever had” to protest the company’s dismissal of two leaders of an employee climate group who had spoken out about treatment of warehouse workers. He described the firings as “evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture. I choose neither to serve nor drink that poison.” Bray called the company’s justifications for the firings  “laughable; it was clear to any reasonable observer that they were turfed for whistleblowing.” He suggested the company’s power could be reined in through “a combination of antitrust and living-wage and worker-empowerment legislation, rigorously enforced.”

► From KOMO News — UW doctors clamor for better contract as they fight on the COVID-19 front lines — They are on the frontline of the COVID -19 pandemic, but UW resident physicians say they are struggling to make ends meet. And now they are publicly pushing for more. After 10 months of negotiating, UW Housestaff Association, the union representing 1,400 resident physicians and fellows, took out a full-page ad in the Sunday Seattle Times directed at UW Medicine’s leader. “We have felt like we needed to do something to get the attention of Dr. Paul Ramsey who is the CEO of UW Medicine and the dean of the School of Medicine,” said Dr. Kisha Clune, who is a resident physician at UW Medicine and a negotiator with UW Housestaff Association.

The Stand (Sept. 20, 2020) — UW’s medical trainees need fair pay

► From the News Tribune — Tacoma lays off dozens amid pandemic; city manager, other executives to take pay cuts — Dozens of city of Tacoma employees will be laid off for periods up to 12 weeks starting Monday as the city grapples with an anticipated $40 million budget shortfall from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 65 employees come from a range of departments, including Tacoma Venues and Events, Public Works, City Attorney’s Office and Tacoma Municipal Court. They join 85 Tacoma Public Library employee layoffs announced last week.

► From the Olympian — Grays Harbor County business will temporarily cut 132 jobs, state says — Cosmo Specialty Fibers, a wood pulp mill in Cosmopolis, cut 132 jobs. The layoffs, which took effect Friday, are expected to be temporary.

► From the (Everett) Herald — Everybody knows Gary, a QFC checker on the front lines — Four police cruisers screamed down the lane with sirens and lights blazing. Then there was Gary on his bike. A black QFC apron hung from under his blue plaid jacket. He flashed his signature Gary grin and did a fist pump to the cheering bystanders. What’s up with that? About 25 people lined 53rd Avenue West for the block’s nightly salute to coronavirus heroes. Gary Locke was the guest of honor and the police were his escort. They were in their rigs. He was on the trusty 21-speed he rides daily from his apartment in Everett to the Mukilteo Harbour Pointe QFC. He’d come after his day shift as a checker.




► From the Tri-City Herald — Intentional COVID infection ‘parties’ reported in Walla Walla County — Some of the coronavirus infections in Walla Walla County are the result of intentional parties to spread the illness, said county health officials. Walla Walla County health investigators say they’ve been told that “COVID-19 parties” were organized so people could be with an infected person in attempt to catch the virus. The coronavirus parties may be modeled on “chickenpox parties” at which parents bring healthy children to a party with an ill child to intentionally expose their unvaccinated children.

EDITOR’S NOTE — This stupid idea is being circulated by right-wing media outlets and distributed via Facebook and other social media. Public Service Announcement: Listen to the scientists, who say this is “a really horrible idea right now.”




► From the AP — Hundreds of health care workers in Washington sickened by coronavirus — Hundreds of health care workers and dozens of first responders in Washington state have become sick with the coronavirus while on the job, according to workers’ compensation claims. The new data provides some insight into how the coronavirus has impacted the health care community but underestimates how many doctors and nurses have tested positive for the disease. That number is not known because state and federal health officials have failed to collect the information, and they’ve made no improvements since The Associated Press first reported the problem in April.

► From the Tri-City Herald — State health officials investigate coronavirus complaint at a Tri-Cities hospital — State health officials visited Trios Southridge Hospital last week to investigate a complaint amid the coronavirus outbreak. Medical professionals at Trios said the investigators asked staff specific questions about safety and the use of personal protective equipment, or PPE, including how they store N95 respirator masks.




► From Politico — Models shift to predict dramatically more U.S. deaths as states relax social distancing — A key model of the coronavirus pandemic favored by the White House nearly doubled its prediction Monday for how many people will die from the virus in the U.S. by August – primarily because states are reopening too soon. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine is now projecting 134,000 coronavirus-related fatalities, up from a previous prediction of 72,000. Factoring in the scientists’ margin of error, the new prediction ranges from 95,000 to 243,000.

The Stand (May 1) — Lifting stay-home orders too soon is an attack on workers

► From the Seattle Times — Poll shows Americans widely oppose reopening most businesses, despite easing of restrictions in some states — Americans clearly oppose the reopening of restaurants, retail stores and other businesses, even as governors begin to lift restrictions that have kept the economy locked down in an effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.

► From HuffPost — White House blocks coronavirus task force members from testifying to Congress — “The president’s failure to accept the truth, and then his desire to hide it, is one of the chief reasons we are lagging behind so many other countries in beating this scourge,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)

► From the Washington Post — If they’re heroes, pay and protect them like heroes (by Catherine Rampell) — Those around the country taking on great risk so that the rest of us can stay home should be compensated for that risk. Yet home health aides can make as little as $9 an hour for the privilege of exposing themselves to a deadly disease…. Last month, Senate Democrats proposed a “Heroes Fund” to raise the wages of certain categories of workers as much as $13 per hour through the end of the year… Paying essential workers more would not absolve the federal government of responsibility to make their work safer.

The Stand (April 8) — Senate Dems seek COVID-19 ‘Heroes Fund’




► From WOWK — Annual letter carriers’ food drive postponed — The event organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers traditionally takes place the second Saturday in May, and people normally place food items at the mailbox for pick up by their letter carriers. While the event is being postponed, the organization says the demand to help those in need is especially great now with a large number of layoffs due to the pandemic. In lieu of the food drive, organizers are asking those who can to make a financial contribution to a local food bank.




► From AFSCME — Public Service Army (video) — We have what it takes to defeat this pandemic, protect our communities and get our economy moving again. But it’s going to take a robust, well-stocked public service army to get it done.


The Stand (May 4) — Tell Congress to provide state COVID-19 aid — Public Service Recognition Week has begun. The best way you can honor public employees’ service right now is by fighting to save their jobs. State and local governments are facing major budget crises due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. House of Representatives wants to step up now and provide emergency funding to protect public hospitals, public schools and public services like firefighting, law enforcement and transportation from devastating cuts. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stands in the way. He has callously suggested to allow states to go bankrupt rather than provide emergency funding.

TAKE A STAND — The American Federation of Teachers is urging all union members and community supporters to contact your senators and representatives and tell them that you expect then to support state and local aid.


The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.

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