iStock/koto_fejaBy: LAUREN EFFRON, ABC News
(NEW YORK) -- One California city is grappling with COVID-19 outbreaks at nine of its industrial facilities, including one food processing plant that reported having at least 153 positive cases, according to health officials.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said the largest outbreak occurred at the Farmer John meatpacking plant in Vernon, California, which is owned by Smithfield Foods and produces Dodger Dogs, among other products.
Health officials said 153 employees of 1,837 who work at that facility tested positive for COVID-19 when testing was conducted between March through May, and of those 153 employees, 41 returned to work.
The other Vernon facilities with reported outbreaks include Cal Farms Meat Company, CLW (meat), F. Gavina & Sons Inc. (coffee), Golden West Trading (meat and other products), Overhill Farms (frozen food), Rose & Shore (deli meat and prepared foods), Takaokaya USA (tea, seaweed and other products) and Vie De France Yamazaki (baked goods).
Smithfield Foods, which owns Farmer John, is the largest pork supplier in the United States and employs 40,000 people across the country.
The company said it offers free COVID-19 testing to all of its employees, according to its website, where it also lists a series of measures it has taken to help contain the spread of COVID-19 at its facilities. These measures, according to the company, include increased social distancing, plexiglass barriers and temperature scanning.
COVID-19 has dramatically impacted the food industry in the United States. Dozens of food processing plants across the country have had to shut down for days or even weeks to slow or stop the spread of the virus since March.
Nearly 5,000 meat-packing workers at 115 facilities in 19 states have been infected with COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
"We have seen disruption across the entire food supply chain, and of course, the meat supply chain is a subset of that," said Nick Vyas, the executive director of Center for Global Supply Chain Management at University of Southern California, told Good Morning America. "The disruption started in a meat supply chain, as was the food supply chain as a whole, partly because this assembly line processing lines and the facility itself did not really have the proper method in place to really protect the frontline workers, and we started to see one plant after the other really got exposed with the COVID-19."
Last week, Tyson Foods confirmed 570 workers at its Wilkesboro, North Carolina, poultry facilities tested positive for the virus, and 257 employees tested positive in its Temperanceville, Virginia, facility.
"At Tyson, our team members come first, and we are focused on ensuring they feel safe and secure when they come to work," Tom Brower, senior vice president of health and safety for Tyson Foods said in a statement. "We are working closely with local health departments and using the latest information and resources to protect our team members, their families and our communities."
Tyson said it, too, has implemented a number of safety measures at its facilities, including symptom screenings for all team members before every shift, providing mandatory protective face masks to all team members, as well as a range of social distancing measures, including physical barriers between workstations and in break rooms.
Another Smithfield-owned plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was shut down for three weeks after hundreds of employees tested positive for the coronavirus.
That Smithfield facility, which the company says is responsible for up to 5% of the U.S.'s total pork production, was reopened this month after Smithfield said it was given "positive confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that the company is in full compliance with all CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidance."
With food supply disruptions, prices are going up at the grocery store. Overall, the U.S. Bureau of Labor's consumer price index report said grocery bills were up 2.6% in April, the biggest monthly increase in nearly 50 years. For meat, the price of fresh beef increased 11.9% during the week ending May 9, compared to the same period last year, and the price of fresh chicken increased 7.5%, according to Neilson.
"What we're seeing is the high prices, shortages in some commodities and this will continue," Vyas said. "This impact will likely outlast the virus itself."
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
ucpage/iStockBy ERIC MOLLO, ABC News
(NEW YORK) -- Georgia was one of the earliest states in the country to relax coronavirus restrictions. Businesses are opening back up again across the state, including in Albany, a hard-hit city of over 70,000 people, many of whom are African-American.
Glenn Singfield was born and raised in Albany, Georgia. He is the owner of two restaurants there, The Flint, a sprawling establishment located in a brick building along the Flint River, which runs through downtown Albany, and the smaller but also popular Albany Fish Company, which is currently serving take-out and delivery.
Singfield spoke to ABC News' Cheri Preston, host of ABC News' Perspective Podcast, about managing his establishments during the pandemic and how his region has been affected by the crisis on a special edition of the show, Pandemic: A Nation Divided, examining how COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting Americans along racial and socioeconomic divides.
"Most, but not all the restaurateurs here... we were a bit nervous [following the state's reopening plan]... We were very excited about opening because our customers are asking for us. However, we feel like the city of Albany was a little different than the rest of the cities in the state, so we wanted to take a little bit more precaution."
According to a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll, black Americans and Latinos are nearly three times as likely to personally know someone who has died from the virus than white Americans as the coronavirus impacts racial and ethnic minorities disproportionately. Almost three quarters of Albany's population is African-American, and the main hospital in the area, Phoebe Putney, has reported more than 100 deaths from the disease. It is one of Georgia’s hardest-hit areas.
Singfield praised Phoebe Putney's doctors and nurses, saying he and his kids were born in the hospital, and says he has seen the impacts of COVID-19 on Albany, Georgia firsthand:
"I'm a young black man... not as young as I used to be… I'm forty-years-old. I'm from the South. I've seen racism. I think everybody's been treated, for the most part, fairly. However, there are some issues that can be discussed. In my community, the African-American community has been hit the hardest, and I don't know what that attributes to. I don't want to put the blame on what it could be, but it needs to be researched, handled, and figured out why because it's impacting our community tremendously... If you don't have the means and also the knowledge, you don't know what to do, so that could put a strain on a person of color, or not having enough money to take care of themselves. That line has to be taken care of in all communities too. Not just mine."
Singfield hopes businesses are taking precautions to protect their customers, as he said he has done in both of his restaurants, and that they will be responsible as the community continues battling COVID-19.
"I think that the people here want to get out, but there are some people that are moving a little too fast. They're not taking the precautions necessary sometimes. Most of them do, but you have a couple people here that feels like it's not necessary to do. I wish everybody would get on the same page, so we get a handle on this thing. We just have to do what officials have told us to do."
Listen to the rest of this past week’s highlights from Perspective here.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
'Hug Time' inventor, Carly Marinaro, pictured in front of her plastic hug shield she made from PVC pipe, a window insulator kit, and industrial gloves in Rockford, Illinois. - (Courtesy Carly Marinaro) By HALEY YAMADA, ABC News
(ROCKFORD, Ill.) -- While hugging has proven difficult amid social distancing guidelines from the coronavirus pandemic, that didn't stop Carly Marinaro, who created the "Hug Time'' plastic shield, from surprising her 85-year-old grandmother with safe hugs from her and her grandchildren.
Marinaro, from Rockford, Illinois, said it was Mother's Day that motivated her to put together the plastic device as a surprise for her grandmother, Rose Gagnon.
"I am really close with my grandmother and my kids are as well," said Marinaro, who added that she used to see Gagnon close to every day for morning coffee. "When Mother's Day rolled around and she wasn't able to physically be with any of her children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren, she was pretty sad."
"We are a family of huggers," said Gagnon. "That's how our family shows love."
Marinaro said she got to googling and searched for long plastic gloves, PVC pipe and a window insulation kit. She spent less than $50 on materials and, with a little help from a local hardware store, assembled the 'Hug Time' in about an hour.
"It was fairly simple and quick," said Marinaro. "I am an artistic person and a very visual person ... I've been making things for years."
Gagnon said she got a call and specific directions from her great-grandchildren to come over for the surprise.
"[They] said, 'Nana, you have to comb your hair and put lipstick on ... we're going to have a video," said Gagnon with a laugh. "When I got there, I was totally shocked. I could not believe what [Marinaro] had done. She knew that I was missing my grandchildren ... I just missed my hugs."
"I knew this was for her, that's why we did it, but I didn't realize it was just as much for the kids and for me," said Marinaro. "We were thinking she needed this, but [we] all needed it."
Neither Marinaro nor Gagnon expected so much local attention from the moment, but felt happy to spread joy during this time.
"It just blows my mind the response that it's gotten and it's done out of love, not anything else," said Gagnon, who is looking forward to a real hug sometime soon. "It's been hard to stay away from my family ... that warm fuzziness in their hearts ... that's what we're after."
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
NoDerog/iStockBy BILL HUTCHINSON, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- Calling it a "brazen power grab" and voter-fraud "recipe for disaster," state and national Republican groups filed a federal lawsuit alleging the California governor's executive order to send mail-in ballots to every voter in the state for the November 2020 election is illegal.
The Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee and California Republican Party filed the lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla accusing them of using the coronavirus pandemic as "a ploy" to "rewrite the entire election code for the November 2020 election."
"This brazen power grab was not authorized by state law and violates both the Elections Clause and Electors Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Governor's Order is invalid and must be enjoined," reads the lawsuit filed Sunday in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of California.
On May 8, Newsom signed the executive order that he said was intended to protect registered voters from the virus by giving them the option of voting by mail if they considered it too risky to brave potentially crowded polling stations to cast their ballot in the Nov. 3 general election.
"No Californian should be forced to risk their health in order to exercise their right to vote," Newsom said at the time. "Mail-in ballots aren't a perfect solution for every person, and I look forward to our public health experts and the Secretary of State's and the Legislature's continued partnership to create safer in-person opportunities for Californians who aren't able to vote by mail."
The lawsuit was filed on the same day President Donald Trump, whose name will appear on the general election ballot, escalated his attack against mail-in voting, suggesting its supporters are attempting to use the pandemic to pull a "scam."
The United States cannot have all Mail In Ballots. It will be the greatest Rigged Election in history. People grab them from mailboxes, print thousands of forgeries and “force” people to sign. Also, forge names. Some absentee OK, when necessary. Trying to use Covid for this Scam!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2020
"The United States cannot have all Mail In Ballots. It will be the greatest Rigged Election in history," Trump said in a Twitter post.
Ronna McDaniel, chairperson of the Republican National Committee, echoed Trump's concerns that the move could foster widespread voter fraud, alleging in a statement that ballots mistakenly mailed to dead or inactive voters could be intercepted by Democrats to tilt the election in their favor.
"Democrats continue to use this pandemic as a ploy to implement their partisan election agenda, and Governor Newsom's executive order is the latest direct assault on the integrity of our elections," McDaniel said in a statement. "Newsom's illegal power grab is a recipe for disaster that would destroy the confidence Californians deserve to have in the security of their vote."
I am pleased to announce that the RNC, @NRCC & @CAGOP just sued Gavin Newsom over his illegal election power grab.— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) May 24, 2020
His radical plan is a recipe for disaster that would create more opportunities for fraud & destroy the confidence Californians deserve to have in their elections.
The 27-page lawsuit accuses Newsom of using the power of his pen to create a system that "will violate eligible citizens' right to vote."
"By ordering that vote-by-mail ballots be automatically sent to every registered voter -- including inactive voters, voters with invalid registrations, voters who have moved, voters who have died, and voters who don't want a ballot -- he has created a recipe for disaster," the lawsuit reads. "No State that regularly conducts statewide all-mail elections automatically mails ballots to inactive voters because it invites fraud, coercion, theft, and otherwise illegitimate voting. Fraudulent and invalid votes dilute the votes of honest citizens and deprive them of their right to vote in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment."
Newsom has yet to respond to the lawsuit.
Padilla slammed the lawsuit in a series of Twitter posts, calling it "just another part of Trump's political smear campaign against voting by mail."
"Expanding vote-by-mail during a pandemic is not a partisan issue -- it's a moral imperative to protect voting rights and public safety," Padilla tweeted. "Vote-by-mail has been used safely and effectively in red, blue, and purple states for years."
The virus has infected more than 92,000 people in California and killed nearly 4,000 in California, according to the California Department of Public Health.
While the overall infection rates in the state and across the nation are trending down and more and more counties in California are slowly reopening the economy, the nation's top health officials warn that the virus has not yet been contained and that they are worried about a potential second wave of infections in the fall.
"I want to be very clear to the American people, we are preparing for that potential fall issue, both in PPE, which is protective devices, both in ventilator stockpiles, and ensuring that we're really pushing on therapeutics and vaccine development so we can be ready if the virus does come back in a significant way," Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said in an interview Sunday on ABC's This Week.
Expanding vote-by-mail during a pandemic is not a partisan issue — it’s a moral imperative to protect voting rights and public safety. Vote-by-mail has been used safely and effectively in red, blue, and purple states for years. (1/2)— Alex Padilla (@AlexPadilla4CA) May 25, 2020
In the lawsuit, the GOP groups didn't slam the door shut on voting by mail.
"To be sure, vote-by-mail can be a legitimate feature of a state's election process, when coupled with adequate procedural safeguards to deter fraud," the lawsuit reads. "But given the many risks ... in most states it is an alternative implemented carefully and slowly and only with such safeguards in place."
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
Comic Relief/BBC Children in Need/Comic Relief via Getty ImagesBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News
(LONDON) -- Prince William is opening up about his experience of becoming a father, calling it "the biggest life-changing moment."
William, 37, and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, are the parents of Prince George, 6, Princess Charlotte, 5, and Prince Louis, 2.
William spoke about fatherhood with former soccer player Marvin Sordell for a new BBC One documentary, "Football, Prince William and our Mental Health." When Sordell opened up about the impact of growing up without a father and then becoming a father himself, William reflected on the death of his own mother, Princess Diana.
Diana died in a Paris car crash in 1997, when William was just 15 years old.
“Having children is the biggest life changing moment, it really is," William says in the documentary. "I think when you’ve been through something traumatic in life, and that is like you say, your dad not being around, my mother dying when I was younger, the emotions come back, in leaps and bounds."
"Me and Catherine particularly, we support each other and we go through those moments together and we kind of evolve and learn together," he said. "I can completely relate to what you’re saying about children coming along, it’s one of the most amazing moments of life but it’s also one of the scariest."
William has spoken in the past about how he keeps the memory of Princess Diana alive for his kids.
"I think constantly talking about Granny Diana, so we've got more photos up around the house now of her and we talk about her a bit and stuff," William said in a 2017 BBC documentary marking the 20th anniversary of Diana's death. "And it's hard because obviously Catherine didn't know her, so she cannot really provide that level of detail."
"So I do regularly, putting George or Charlotte to bed, talk about her and just try and remind them that there are two grandmothers, there were two grandmothers in their lives, and so it's important that they know who she was and that she existed," he said.
William has also joked previously that Diana would be a "nightmare grandmother, absolute nightmare."
"She'd love the children to bits but she'd be an absolute nightmare," he said in a 2017 ITV documentary. "She'd come in probably at bath time, cause an amazing amount of scene, bubbles everywhere, bath water all over the place and -- and then leave."
William said in the same documentary that he has vowed to spend as much time as possible with his children: "I want to make as much time and effort with Charlotte and George as I can because I realize that these early years are particularly crucial for children, and having seen, you know, what [Princess Diana] did for us."
The documentary Football, Prince William and our Mental Health airs Thursday in the U.K. at 8:05 p.m. BST, on BBC One.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
iStock/brightstarsBy: STEPHEN IERVOLINO, ABC News
(GEORGIA) -- With Georgia successfully becoming one of the first states to open for business following the COVID-19 lockdowns, Gov. Brian P. Kemp issued a "best practices" guide for film and TV crews working in the Peach State.
Georgia has become a massive hub for Hollywood productions, with everything from the Marvel movies to MacGyver and The Walking Dead shooting there -- some 391 productions in all in 2019, Deadline reports.
Governor Kemp's guide seeks to cut down on possible means of transmission of coronavirus -- or any easily communicable disease -- on sets, which are usually notorious for their close quarters and shared equipment.
To that end, the guide includes rules that mandate cast and crew members getting temperature checks, wearing masks, utilizing social distancing, and the reduction of background extras in scenes.
Location scouting and casting should be done using video conference technology as much as possible, the guide stipulates; also, the sharing of costumes, mics, and camera equipment would be discouraged, and plastic barriers would be used between performers during rehearsals.
In addition, cast and crew members are encouraged to take their own transportation to and from set; multi-person vans are usually the norm.
Plus, mealtimes should be staggered, and instead of the usual buffet-style craft services trucks seen on sets, take-out food is recommended.
Overseeing these rules will be a designated Occupational Risk Prevention specialist on set.
In a statement, Kemp noted, in part, "The Georgia Film Office has maintained their close work with industry executives to develop these outlines for how productions can help protect cast and crew members."
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
fstop123/iStockBy ELLA TORRES, ABC NEWS
(NEWARK, N.J.) -- An NFL player has sued United Airlines after he was allegedly sexually assaulted on a flight from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey.
The player, who was not named, was flying home to New Jersey on Feb. 10 when the alleged incident occurred, according to the lawsuit. During the trip, a woman sitting next to him "continued to sexually assault and abuse [him]," the lawsuit states, including by grabbing his penis and groping his thigh.
The woman also stroked her hand across his lap near his genitals, according to the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Aside from the alleged sexual assault, the lawsuit states that the NFL player was wearing a face mask to protect himself from COVID-19, but the woman accused of him of being sick, told him he was "frightening" and ripped off the mask.
United Airlines issued a statement to ABC News, saying, "The safety and well-being of our customers is always our top priority. In this instance, the customer involved was moved to a different seat. Because litigation is now pending, we're unable to provide further comment."
The player, who is black, was "fearful of the perception of being a male victim and the racial stigma of being a young African American male," according to the lawsuit. At one point, he "patiently pleaded" with the woman, who is white, to stop and remove her hand, but she did not, according to the lawsuit.
Another man, who was also not named in the lawsuit and identified only as John Doe 2, was traveling with the player at the time. That man saw the woman groping the player's knees and thighs and alerted a flight attendant, however, no action was taken, according to the lawsuit.
When the woman then allegedly grabbed the player's genitals, the player stood up and said the woman was "touching" him before making his way to the rear of the plane to find a flight attendant.
During that time, the woman moved seats to be closer to John Doe 2 and grabbed his leg and groin area, according to the lawsuit. A flight attendant then came over and asked, "Is this the same lady?" before the woman was moved to another row, the lawsuit states.
The woman, whose identity remains unknown, admitted that she was drinking and had taken pills, according to the lawsuit.
Both men were presented with $150 vouchers, however, lawyers for them say they were not properly protected even after complaining.
The men were "put at unnecessary risk of harm and in many cases suffered and continue to suffer great pain of mind and body, shock, emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress including depression, anxiety, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, and fear of flying and travel," according to the lawsuit.
"We bring this lawsuit with the hope that it will be one of the last of its kind," the lawyers for the men said in a statement to ABC News. "Our wish would be that in the future no passengers' multiple warnings and complaints to flight attendants, the onboard authority figures, will go unheeded until it's too late and the damage has been done."
They are seeking punitive damages for multiple claims, including sexual assault, sexual battery, battery and negligence.
The defendants in the lawsuit are United Airlines and multiple unnamed flight attendants.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved