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Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press
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One of the lesser-seen, but potentially disastrous, effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic is a potential breakdown of the US food supply.
“I think the food supply chain is threatened in some parts of the country. I’m not sure I would go so far as to say the entire food supply chain is broken. Clearly, in the Midwest we’ve seen a number of plants close, which obviously will disrupt supply,” said Tom Vilsack, who served as agriculture secretary during the Obama administration. “And the the key here is to take this thing very seriously, maintain the safety of the existing facilities, making sure the workforce is protected, make sure that there’s adequate distancing between workers, minimize the risk of those existing facilities, and get the closed facilities back online as quickly as possible.”
The solution is that companies have to be “creative,” according to Vilsack.
“They need to be committed to worker safety, they need to agree that these workers are essential in the economy, which means that they ought to have access to protective equipment, that they ought to have access to testing, that there ought to be a process in place to ensure that sick people are not incented to come to work, but in turn encouraged to stay home if they’re sick, and to make sure that the production process is changed and modified in such a way the production can continue, perhaps at a slower pace, but can continue,” he said. “But social distancing, physical distancing can be in place to minimize the risk of existing plants. For the plants that are closed, let’s get them cleaned up as quickly as possible, let’s get the testing in place so that when people come back, you know whether or not a person is healthy or not. If they’re not, then they don’t come to work. Don’t incent them to come to work. Make sure they understand the importance of staying home when they’re sick.”
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