Perdue joins coronavirus task force

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, chosen by President Trump to oversee the reopening of meat plants, is now a member of the White House coronavirus task force, “which is focused on getting Americans back to work and allowing businesses to reopen,” said the White House. The appointment was announced a few hours after Perdue and presidential adviser Ivanka Trump visited a produce warehouse in the Washington suburbs that is part of the Farmers to Families Food Box on Friday.

Ivanka Trump said the Food Box was an example of  the administration’s “innovative and impactful policies to bolster American workers, families and small business owners.” Coastal Sunbelt Produce won a $4.54 billion contract to buy fresh produce, pack it in family-size boxes and deliver them to Washington-area food banks. Deliveries began Friday.

Perdue was among five new members of the task force, including Labor Secretary Gene Scalia and Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. Vice President Mike Pence said the new members “will add expertise in the fields of vaccines and therapeutics as well as worker safety as the Task Force renews its focus on getting Americans back to work.”

The USDA estimated that cattle and hog slaughter plants ran at nearly 84 percent capacity last week, compared to 73 percent the preceding week.

Data collected by FERN indicate at least 59 meatpacking workers and more than 14,000 employees have tested positive for Covid-19. Cases were reported at 209 meatpacking and food processing plants.