Meat-processing plants have been at the centre of coronavirus outbreaks in several countries, and the US is no exception,
In late April, while outbreaks began emerging at meat processing plants across the country, Donald Trump signed an executive order forcing the facilities to remain open.
Since the pandemic began, more than 36,000 meat processing and farm workers have tested positive for Covid-19 and at least 116 have died, according to a tally by the Food and Environment Reporting Network, though the true number is likely higher.
Lewis Kendall has been reporting for us in Durham, North Carolina, on what it is like to be working in an environment where coronavirus seems to spread so easily.
Oklahoma votes narrowly to expand Medicaid
Sean Murphy at the Associated Press has been reporting on how Oklahoma voters narrowly decided to expand Medicaid health insurance to tens of thousands low-income residents, becoming the first state to amend its Constitution to do so.
With 100% of precincts reporting unofficial results, State Question 802 passed by less than 1 percentage point. The question fared well in metropolitan areas, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa, but was overwhelmingly opposed in rural counties.
Amending the Oklahoma Constitution will prevent the Republican-controlled Legislature, which has resisted Medicaid expansion for a decade, from tinkering with the programme or rolling back coverage.
State Question 802 will extend Medicaid health insurance to those earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level, which is about $17,200 for an individual or $35,500 for a family of four. Oklahoma was one of 14 states that had not expanded Medicaid under the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act.
Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt and his predecessor, Mary Fallin, have opposed expansion, citing uncertainty about future costs for the state. “We have a billion-dollar shortfall next year,” Stitt said recently at a forum hosted by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group that opposes the measure. The state would have to “either raise taxes or to cut services somewhere else like education, first responders, or roads and bridges.”
After years of legislative inaction on health insurance proposals, supporters of Medicaid expansion launched an initiative petition last year to get the measure on the ballot, and collected a record number of signatures.
Some Republican opposition to Medicaid expansion has eroded in recent years, particularly in rural areas where hospitals have suffered financial problems or closed.
Kevin Penry, a Republican and retired pastor from Edmond, said that before going on Medicare last month he had to buy expensive insurance on the federal marketplace, which “really made me feel for folks who are in a difficult financial situation.” He said he voted for the expansion.
The Oklahoma Health Care Authority has projected that about 215,000 residents would qualify for a Medicaid expansion, for a total annual cost of about $1.3 billion. The estimated state share would be about $164 million. But those numbers could be considerably higher given the number of Oklahomans who have lost their jobs and work-related health insurance because of the economic shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Missouri voters will also decide on a constitutional amendment on 4 August.
John Hickenlooper wins Democratic nomination in Colorado
Another result from Colorado is that former Governor John Hickenlooper won the Democratic nomination Tuesday to face Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in November
Hickenlooper’s main challenge was former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who was promising a Green New Deal and single-payer health care.
But Hickenlooper had a financial edge in the campiagn, out-raising Romanoff by about 7-to-1. He also had a reservoir of goodwill to call upon after two terms in the governor’s mansion.
Senate Democrats recruited Hickenlooper, 68, to take on Gardner, who is widely seen as the most vulnerable Republican in the Senate. Democrats need to gain three seats in November to win control of the chamber, and they see Colorado as their most promising opportunity. Hickenlooper made an ill-fated bid for the White House last summer.
“I’ve never lost an election in this state and I don’t intend to lose this one,” Hickenlooper said Tuesday night.
In an interview, Gardner previewed how he intends to fight back, calling Hickenlooper “the most corrupt governor in the history of Colorado.”
Romanoff had quickly called Hickenlooper to congratulate him on the victory after polls closed Tuesday evening. “For all the differences that we had, and there were many in this race, I am equally committed to making sure Cory Gardner is a one-term senator,” Romanoff told supporters during a virtual victory party on Zoom.
QAnon-linked Lauren Boebert wins her Colorado primary
It will be Lauren Boebert who goes into the election in Colorado in November after her surprise primary victory last night.
The owner of a gun-themed restaurant where staff carry their weapons as they serve customers, Boebert won after a campaign in which she accused five-term Rep. Scott Tipton of not being sufficiently pro-Donald Trump, even though the president had endorsed Tipton.
Boebert wrote in a recent Aspen Times column that “A sober look at the Tipton record shows a back-burner representative that has failed to live up to his conservative chops that he touted on his Tea Party-inspired campaign trail. If his record lived up to his campaign rhetoric, I wouldn’t feel so compelled to run.”
She made made a name for herself after loudly protesting Democratic Gov. Jared Polis’ orders to close businesses to fight the coronavirus pandemic. She opened her Shooters Grill restaurant in defiance of closure orders – county officials ended up having to to obtain a cease-and-desist letter from a district judge to shut her restaurant down.
She’s also spoken approvingly of the QAnon far-right conspiracy theory saying during an appearance on QAnon-aligned web show Steel Truth: “Everything that I’ve heard of Q, I hope that this is real because it only means that America is getting stronger and better, and people are returning to conservative values.”
Ann Vandersteel, who conducted the interview, tweeted in support of Boebert yesterday
Boebert will run in November’s general election against Diane Mitsch Bush, a former state lawmaker who won the Democratic nomination on Tuesday.
Tipton, who has been in office since 2011, conceded in an email “District Republicans have decided who they want to run against the Democrats this November. I want to congratulate Lauren Boebert and wish her and her supporters well.”
Good morning, and welcome to our live coverage of US politics today. Here’s a quick catch-up and some of what we can expect from today:
- Dr Anthony Fauci has braced the country for worsening coronavirus numbers, saying the US could see 100,000 new coronavirus cases daily unless action is taken to reverse the epidemic. Yesterday Alaska, Arizona, California, Georgia, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas all announced single-day highs for new cases. Experts say masks would help slow the spread – but the president is conspicuously continuing to refuse to wear one in public. The US administration has, though, bought up the world’s stock of Covid-19 drug, remdesivir
- Colorado, Oklahoma and Utah held primaries yesterday. John Hickenlooper has held off Andrew Romanoff in the Colorado Democratic Senate Primary. Lauren Boebert has pulled off a surprise victory over five-term Representative Scott R. Tipton in Colorado’s Republican primary. She’s previously spoken approvingly about the QAnon conspiracy theory, and faced legal action after she refused to obey the state’s coronavirus restrictions
- Julian Bear Runner, the president of the Oglala Sioux tribal council, has told Donald Trump to stay away from Mount Rushmore. He warns that the president’s planned 3 July visit to the monument on ‘stolen’ Native land risks spreading coronavirus. South Dakota governor Kristi Noem has said the state won’t be enforcing social distancing at the independence day celebration event
- Republican Governor Tate Reeves retired Mississippi’s 126-year-old flag
- The Oscars voting body invited in 819 new members in a campaign to diversify the Academy
And if you fancy a bit of light relief before the day gets properly going, we’ve got a great piece where Martha Reeves discusses the making of and the political impact of her 60s Motown hit that became the unintentional soundtrack to another tumultuous time in American history – Dancing in the Street.
I’ll be your lone warrior on the blog this morning – you can get in touch with me at email@example.com