ByDanielle DuClos/For The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
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.
ByChristine Herman and Dana Cronin, Harvest Public Media |
The rollout of coronavirus vaccines provides hope that the end of the pandemic is near. But the virus is still spreading across the U.S. and efforts to expand access to testing and build trust with the farmworker community are still needed, Tellefson Torres says.
ByDerek Kravitz, Brown Institute for Media Innovation; Georgia Gee, Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, Columbia Journalism School; Madison McVan, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting; and Ignacio Calderon, USA TODAY Network Agriculture Data Fellow |
A May 1 conference call with federal, state and local health officials sent one message: Despite a COVID-19 outbreak amongst it workers, Rochelle Foods was to remain open. This fall, a second outbreak at the plant wasn’t publicly reported.
ByKyle Bagenstose and Rachel Axon, USA TODAY; Sky Chadde, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
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.
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”).
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:
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.