HOW CORONAVIRUS BROKE AMERICA TOP 1st CASE STUDY BY VIKAS
we want to talk about the corona virus, the pandemic that has destroyed the health and livelihood of billions of people and also the NBA. Look I’m going to be real… not having basketball is turning me into a monster. Last week,I made my babies play one-on-one, and the loser got written out of my will. Now they didn’t know that,but it made it so much more fun to watch. As America starts to open back up,we got to be cautious, guys, because the next few months can’t look like the last few months. Hospital workers are pleading for help, saying the lack of equipment isputting them in danger. We’ve got a rising death tolland historic unemployment. We still don’t have enough testing available. We have shortages of masks,gowns, and gloves. Everyday, when I go to work,I feel like a sheep going to slaughter. Wait, that’s not how it works.
Americans don’t die from American incompetence. People in other countries die from American incompetence. The United States is just4% of the world’s population, but has almost a thirdof the world’s cases. And a lot of that is because of our president and how much he messed up early on. Trump got his first detailed COVID-19 briefings in January but waited until Marchto do anything about it. Just look at how the virus began spreading in other countries. Now look at us. This looks like a graph of how Americans get their news, just CNN, MSNBC, FOX. And then here’s Joe Rogan. One study found that as of May 3rd, 83% of U.S. COVID deathscould have been avoided if the White House implementedsocial distancing just two weeks sooner. That’s about 54,000needless deaths. So there is no questionour president failed to contain this. But here’s the thing, his failures exposed major problems inthis country that we already knew about. Trump is exactly like coronavirus– he’s bad for you, but he is way worseif you have a pre-existing condition. And there is one condition that runsthrough almost every problem we have seen. One of the country’stop food producers is warning that the nation’sfood supply chain is breaking. The supply chain is a huge problem. just getting those swabs,even getting the simple things like pipettes. The supply chain is absolutely broken. Prices for simple things like masks have gone up by 10 to 20 times. Supply chains are likeyour parents’ marriage.
You take it for granted until it’s broken.And then it fucks you up for life. And that is what I wantto talk about tonight: Why your dad left. I’m kidding. I want to talk about how we broke our own supply chains. Just so we’re on the same page, a supply chain is basically all the stepsto deliver a product to a consumer. Think of it like Breaking Bad. There’s more or less five stepsto all legal and meth enterprises. There’s sourcing, aka stealingbarrels of methylamine. Warehousing, where youkeep the supply. Manufacturing, how you makethe Heisenberg Blue, ideally in your undies. Inventory, how muchyou keep on hand. And distribution, how you get itto the meth heads. R.I.P. Combo. When you put all that together, supplychains can get complicated, expensive, and usually end in the death ofa Chilean chicken man named Gustavo. That’s why companies are constantlytrying to make their supply chains as efficient as possible. And we all know the gold standard. “This Amazon fulfillment centeris simply mammoth. The floor is covered in tiny QR codes.” It’s sort of like a chess board. “Eyes in the robots bellies readthe codes and broadcast their position. Choreography that keeps yourshipment on time and avoids collisions. As gaping, gargantuan, giganticas this fulfillment center is.” “Gaping, gargantuan, girthy warehouse.” Dude, if you’re trying to get Jeff Bezosrock hard, don’t tell him how bigAmazon’s warehouses are, talk about how small their unions are. But it’s important to know: when you make efficiency your only goal,it comes with a big tradeoff.
The tradeoff with efficiencyis always resilience. A highly efficient system is so brittle that when you have a disruptionsuch as a pandemic it starts breaking down. That’s the problem. Decades of making all of our supply chainsas efficient as possible left our life-saving supply chainsvery vulnerable. Which perfectly sums up America. Everything we want is fucking amazing,iPhones, Amazon, Grubhub. Everything we need is dog shit,schools, airports, trains. Dude, I get an Uber…it comes immediately. I get to Penn Station…what country am I in? It always looks like a terror attackjust happened. It’s dusty,people are lying on the ground, some white lady is screaming,“Can you help me!?” Look at our medical system. Hospitals ran out of ventilators, beds,and personal protective equipment, PPE. You saw this. Dude, doctors wearing bandanaslike Bloods and Crips, nurses were waddling aroundin garbage bags, hospitals were so desperate,they were accepting PPE from anyone. Medical shows currently on hiatus likeGrey’s Anatomy and The Good Doctor, have donated their gowns and masksfrom their wardrobe departments. And ABC’s Station 19 dropped off 300 of the coveted N95-grade medical masks that they used to wear on the show. Whoa, GMA! Wrong music for a pandemic. They’re like, “Millions of people have caught COVID fever! Grandma’s coughing blood, andthe body count is climbing up the charts! Mario Lopez weighs in.” Also, I don’t knowif you caught this… She called those N95 masks “coveted.” There are a lot of things you should “covet” during a pandemic, including and especially… your neighbor’s wife. Go ahead. I won’t tell. But no one should have to “covet”an N95 mask.
And it shows how messed upour medical supply chains are. It’s the most basic thing.Fabric on your face. How did we get this so wrong? Until the coronavirus response, the H1N1 responsewas the largest deployment in the historyof the Stockpile. 85 million N95 masks were deployedfrom the Strategic National Stockpile. But guess what?They were never replenished. We didn’t replace our stockpileof lifesaving masks? Dude, you refill the tankwhen you rent a Dodge Caravan from Hertz! But to be fair, our stockpile was never meantto be our entire supply. It was just supposed to hold us overuntil we fix the supply chain. There’s just one small problem. We need masks.They’re made in China. We need gowns.They’re made in China. We need face shields.They’re made in China. We need ventilators.They’re made in China. I mean, it’s just… How? How? How? Come on, Cuomo.You know what it is. America is made in China. China gives us everything we want:TVs, dishwashers, iPhones. For years, Chinese factory workerswere jumping out of buildings, so we can tweet mean thingsat Chrissy Teigen and have a Bolivian mandeliver us pad thai. And we took the deal. And now that deal is killing us. President Bushdidn’t fix the problem. Manufacturing like thisgoing overseas. President Obama didn’t.And neither has president Trump. Why is this so hard? It’s actually not hard. We have offshored a lot of our industryfor critical supplies, critical healthcare supplies,and critical medicines, to save money.
This is horrible,but his voice is so calming. It’s like a guided meditationon trade policy. But he’s right. More than 90% of our surgical maskswere made overseas. So not only did we not have enoughold masks, global demand was spiking, and we weren’t able to manufactureenough new ones. And for people thinking, “Come on, bro.No one could have predicted this.” Well let me introduce you to Mike Bowen. He is the co-owner ofone of the few companies that still makesN95 masks in America. How long have you been tellinganyone who would listen, that once a pandemic hits, that Americawould face a big problem? Since 2007, and for 13 years we told the story that a pandemicwas going to come, the mask supplywas going to collapse, and foreign health officials were going to cut offmasks to the United States. And that’sexactly what happened. Mike Bowen must feel so vindicated. He’s been screaming about this for years,and no one was listening. It’s how Alex Jones would feelif frogs ever came out of the closet. Remember, this is how unprepared we werebefore Trump. Then our mask supply actually collapsed. And Trump could have ramped updomestic production by invoking the Defense Production Act,or DPA. Or, as Trump puts it, “Invoking ‘P.’” No one knows what that means.
But it sounds like whatBenedict Cumberbatch calls sex. The DPA allows the presidentto take control of our supply chains during wartime or national emergencies, making private companiesproduce goods for the country. But for months,Trump refused to invoke it for PPE. That means, while COVID was surging here, U.S. companies kept exporting masksto other countries! In March, we sent over $83 millionworth of masks overseas. Some even went to China,the country we buy PPE from. That’s fucking insane. It’s so insane,I’m starting to sound like Trump. I’m like, “We can’t sendour masks to China! America first!” By the time Trump finally invoked the DPAto ramp up N95 production, it was too late. Healthcare workers were dying,hospitals were getting price gouged, and states were fighting each otherand the federal government for PPE. All because Trump dragged his feeton securing medical supply chains. But what makes his inactioneven more appalling is when you find outhow quickly he reacted when a different industrygot hammered by COVID.
Across the country, many meatpackingplants have been shut down because of coronavirus outbreaks. “At least 14,000 coronavirus cases tied to 181 plants.” Meatpacking plants became sort oflittle Petri dishes of COVID infection. Luckily, there is no evidencecoronavirus is foodborne. So if you eat a lot of meat,don’t worry. It’s still a very safe wayto get heart disease. Around the country,coronavirus outbreaks at meat plants are causing historic disruptionsto supply chains. And the ripple effects cameas quickly as the puns. The meat shortage across the U.S.has Wendy’s saying, “Where’s the beef?” Where’s the beef? Where’s the beef? “From Ohio to New York,Michigan, to California, the beef shortageat Wendy’s is spreading.” Where’s the beef? Wait, how is this only Wendy’s? Burger King is just like, “Damnit! I guess we have to tell people whoppersare made of whale meat and poppers.” Even Costco started limiting meatto three items per person. I love how COVID forced Costco to just… be normal. They’re like, “Attention customers, during these difficult times,Costco will no longer be selling our kiddie pool of ground beef.Our deepest apologies.” It got to the point, on April 26th, Tyson, America’s largestmeat and poultry processor, ran a full-page ad in the New York Times,warning of a meat shortage. And two days later, this happened. President Trump invokingthe Defense Production Act to ordermeat processing plants to stay opento avoid a meat shortage.
Wait, it took Trump two months to invokethe DPA for health care workers, but two days for meat? He like, “What’s the pointof living, if we can’t… Live Más?” I get it, though. Americans do not knowhow to handle a meat shortage. “The manager explained they don’thave any chicken sandwiches, that they were all sold out, thenthings got way way out of hand. One of they guys had a gun.” Some of you are shocked.Most of you are like, “Yeah, I get it.” Now obviously, when Trump signedthe executive order, he didn’t say it was to stop chickenbandits. Instead, this is the reason he gave. There was a bottleneckcaused by this whole pandemic. We unblockedsome of the bottlenecks. That wholebottleneck is broken up. Okay, so what does he meanby “bottleneck?” This is what he means. Once the plants close down,there’s nowhere to send the animals. And the animalscan’t just wait on the farm. Then the farmers have to keepfeeding them which is expensive, and then they’re notthe right weight for slaughter. It’s cheaper for the farmers to actuallyjust kill the animals and put them in a mass grave, than it would be for them to tryto find another place for them to go. By June, farmers are expected to euthanize almost 7 million animals,because they can’t be processed. So, Wendy’s is running out of burgers, meanwhile, 7 million animalsare going to waste.
And it all comes back to meat companiesand their supply chains. It breaks down like this. So you’ve got a lot of optionswhen it comes to meat. A lot of brands you’ve seen. Some I hope you never see,like Rumba Meats, which I assume is meatthat a robot vacuumed off the floor. Or a brand called Not-So-Sloppy-Joe, which sounds like the boyfriendyou’ve settled for during quarantine. But all these brands are actuallyjust subsidiaries of six companies: Tyson, Cargill, Smithfield,National Beef, Hormel, and JBS. These companiesaccount for nearly two-thirds of all meat and poultry salesin the United States. Since the Reagan administration, we essentially allowed meat companiesto merge in the name of efficiency. We found that bigger meat companiescould slaughter more animals and produce meat more cheaply. So you get to this situation where ifa single pig-processing plant closes down, all the pigs destined for that planthave nowhere to go. It’s really a tale of efficiency gone mad. Corporate consolidation has madethese companies the only game in town, which is great for them. They set the prices, they set the rules, and they set the speedon the processing line. And that is the whole ballgame. “Now you’ve probably noticed just how closely some of theseworkers are to one another.
The reason for that is largely to allow the production lineto move faster.” The pace of the line goes so fast that workers rarely have timeto go to the bathroom. Got it. So the next time you get E. colifrom Jack in the Box, just remember… you’re shitting for two people. This isn’t just a part of their businessmodel. It is their business model. Efficiency depends on workersbeing packed on the line. Meat plants were basically destinedto become COVID hotspots. They’re cold, windy, with tons of peoplepacked like sardines for hours. And COVID showed up like a dictatorvisiting the White House, happy, comfortable,and ready to start killing. And because of this model, how do you think companieswere handling social distancing? “Our first glimpse insidea meatpacking plant: workers crowded shoulder-to-shoulderat a George’s poultry plant in Arkansas, packed in those hallways. Masks down, with apparentlyno place inside to socially distance.” That is inhumane. A vertical video? Get that out of my sight. As more workers caught COVID,shit got even worse. Here’s how JBS handled an outbreakat a plant in Colorado. “JBS management stopped testingshortly after it started, well before its promiseto test employees. Insiders reporting between 40%and 80% of JBS supervisors and managers tested positiveon that initial day of testing.” They don’t want the numbersto come out. It’s bad PR. Hey JBS, if you don’t want bad PR, maybe don’t have higher fatality ratesthan Jurassic Park. Normally, companies like JBS haveno problem keeping things under wraps. That’s ’cause they hire some of the mostvulnerable people in America. More than half of their employeesare refugees or immigrants. Many of them undocumented. But COVID is making things so bad,even they’re speaking out. “Michael is an immigrant,and he says they didn’t ask questions. It was after his last shift on April 10ththat Michael says he started to feel ill.” At that point my face maskwas getting wet all the time. So I had to pull it offand just stay without it. I was struggling. So I was breathing so hardand getting close to other guys. So I was like,“Okay, I might be getting sick.” That guy, Michael, works at a Smithfield plantin South Dakota, where there was a huge outbreak. 853 employees got sick, and 2 died. By April 15th, 55% of all COVIDcases in the whole state could betraced back to that one plant. It’s like the Genghis Khanof fucking vulnerable people. So basically… Genghis Khan. If you’re wondering, “How are thesecompanies getting away with this?” It all comes back to Trump and theDefense Production Act. Remember, he signedan executive order keeping meatpackingplants open.
But here’s the thing. We actually read the order. And it doesn’t say anything aboutmaking meat plants stay open. It just encourages plantsto follow federal safety guidelines and prioritize federal contracts. That’s it. But that’s not how it was reported. His new order willforce processing plants to stay open. Ordering meat processing plantsto stay open. Ordered the meat plants open. Mandating they stay open. Requiring meat plants to stay open. Wait, no! You’re reportingon the fine print, but you never read the fine print! You’re acting likea WhatsApp thread with commercial breaks! What’s actually happening hereis more insidious. Trump said he was invoking the DPA to helpwith the “bottleneck,” right? But listen to himon the day he signed it and see ifa certain word stands out. We’re going to sign an executive ordertoday I believe, and that’ll solveany liability problems where they hadcertain liability problems. And we’ll be in very good shape. We are working with Tyson, which is one of thebig companies in that world. It was a very unique circumstancebecause of liability. Fun fact: “liability” also happens to be the secretservice codename… for “Eric.” Trump is invoking the DPA to shield meatplants from liability from their workers. He’s not forcing them to stay open. He’s giving them cover to stay open,so the plants can avoid liability. And that’s exactly what’s happening. Just look at Smithfield Foods,the company that Michael works for. A Smithfield plant in Nebraskatold workers they were shutting down on April 27th. The next day,Trump signs the “executive order,” and within hoursthe plant says it’s staying open. And liability doesn’t seemto be a concern. In April, a workers’ group sueda Smithfield plant in Missouri for endangering employees due to COVID. Smithfield then tried to get the case thrown out based on Trump’s “executive order.” And it worked! The judge threw out the lawsuit, screwing over the workers.
So just to put it in Trump terms, “Invoking ‘P’” was BS,but now it’s effing the W’s. And this affects all of us. Look at this graph of COVID cases in the food industry. Right after Trump signed the executive order, cases spiked at almost twice the national rate and spread like crazy. By May 15th, of the 25 countieswith the highest infection rates, almost half of these outbreaks started in meat factories. Here’s the most ironic thingabout all of this: Trump says he feels likea wartime president. But the way he’s used his powers shows youexactly where his priorities are. The Defense Production Act is so the president can take controlof supply chains to force corporationsto protect the public. But Trump is using it to protectcorporations at the expense of the public. So, it’s great that Trump feelslike a wartime president. I just wish he would actually be one. ‘Cause real wartime presidentscare about the front lines. Not the bottom line.