COVID on Campus: Unprecedented challenges, mixed results

But an analysis of the efforts at four major Midwestern universities shows that no matter what schools tried — whether it was Illinois’ much-touted testing program or Missouri’s lack of comprehensive or random testing — the results were much worse than predicted. At those campuses and the flagship universities in Indiana and Wisconsin, at least 15,000 tested positive for COVID-19 this fall.

COVID-19 deaths go uninvestigated as OSHA takes a hands-off approach to meatpacking plants

Normally, a workplace death in the United States is met with a swift and thorough response. 

By law, employers must report a death within eight hours to the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration. An inspector from OSHA typically arrives within a day to interview workers, review the site of the incident, and determine whether the death resulted from unsafe conditions. For workers in the meatpacking industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the system of swift reporting and next-day inspections that should protect them has broken down. 

At least 239 meatpacking workers have died and 45,000 have contracted the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to tracking by the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. But companies reported less than half that number of deaths to OSHA, a joint investigation by USA TODAY and the Midwest Center found. Experts say that's in large part because the agency weakened reporting requirements during the pandemic. 

Even fewer deaths triggered the kind of robust investigation OSHA typically conducted before the pandemic.

The Ag Blazin’ Five for 2021 (and beyond)

OK...it's once again time for your audacious commentator to give his hot takes on the agriculture stories that will make news in 2021. This year I've enlisted the help of Homer Simpson who truly knows something about predicting agricultural events before they happened (witness the Simpson take on a horsemeat scandal and the invention of the “tomacco plant”).

Opinion: The top agricultural story of 2020 is…

In a normal year we would be debating several worthy agricultural stories as the most important. We certainly would be taking a hard look at the continuing dicamba herbicide saga. 2020 saw the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit de-register dicamba formulations in the middle of the growing season from Bayer AG, Corteva, and BASF because of shoddy regulatory control at the Environmental Protection Agency:

Opinion: OSHA and Big Meat should be investigated over COVID-19 response

Last month our worst fears were confirmed after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a pair of COVID-19 safety violation related fines against Big-Meat giants China WH-group owned Smithfield Foods and Brazilian-owned JBS. Mismanagement at Smithfield’s meat packing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota resulted in almost 13-hundred COVID-19 positive tests. Four plant workers died. JBS is equally culpable. At the JBS USA plant in Greeley, Colorado 290 workers tested positive for COVID-19. Six have died.

Empleados de la industria cárnica aseguran que la política de asistencia los obliga a trabajar con posibles síntomas de Covid-19

En abril, a pesar de su fiebre, un trabajador de la industria de las empacadoras de carne continuó extrayendo los huesos del cuello de los cerdos en una planta de la compañía JBS en Iowa.

Dos semanas después, dio positivo a Covid-19. Pero mientras tanto, dijo, siguió marcando su entrada debido a un sistema de asistencia sancionador bastante común en las plantas : el sistema de puntos.