Coronavirus testing in a Walmart parking lot
Governors across the US are moving ahead with plans to reopen their states’ economies, even as public health experts say the country still lacks the necessary testing capacity to track and limit the spread of the coronavirus.
President Trump resumed his daily coronavirus briefings on Monday with a commitment to “double” the number of tests, after previously saying that testing levels were “fully sufficient to begin opening up the country.” Only about 1.6% of the population has been tested.
The push to reopen the US economy will highlight and likely exacerbate existing inequalities, with relatively affluent workers able to continue working from home while many lower-paid workers will be forced to choose between risking exposure to the virus and losing their jobs.
Tyson, one of the country’s top meat producers, has shuttered several plants after workers contracted the coronavirus. With slaughterhouses closed even temporarily, “millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain”, according to the company’s management. Smithfield Foods and JBS have also closed down some of their facilities and warned about meat shortages. Nearly a third of US pork processing capacity is currently offline. The factory closures are having a domino effect on rural communities, with farmers across the country unable to sell their livestock for processing. Many have been forced to euthanize their animals.
Note: If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of a plant-based, whole foods diet for your body and the planet, here are some resources you may find helpful:
Forks Over Knives (website, book, film)
The China Study (book)
How Not to Die (book)
Food Inc. (film)
Plant Strong (website, book)
The online application portal for the Paycheck Protection Program crashed minutes after opening on Monday. It remained inaccessible for much of the day. This was the second time in a month that the program encountered problems. After $342 billion in initial funding ran out in under two weeks, Congress approved an additional $310 billion. The government agency that runs the program, the Small Business Administration, said in a message to lenders that “unprecedented demand” was slowing the portal’s response.
The Public Health
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded its list of possible symptoms of the virus to include: chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell.
Yesterday afternoon, President Trump and retail chains announced an expansion of testing capacity at locations across the country. The President said the government is ready to send states enough supplies to test at least 2% of their populations. This is the clearest signal yet that the federal government is unwilling or unable to act as the primary provider of testing, and is requiring the states to fend for themselves.
On March 13, President Trump and major retailers including Walmart, Target, CVS, and Walgreens pledged to launch coronavirus testing in their parking lots. But only about 70 testing sites have opened at drugstores and retailers since then.
CVS has said that it’s expanding capacity to process 1.5 million tests per month by the end of May, at which time it will expand testing locations to 1,000 US stores, provided it has sufficient supplies.
Public health officials and business executives agree the only way to safely reopen the economy and get people back to work is to test. The US needs to accelerate testing by about 200,000 tests per day to safely open up the economy, experts say.
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