Public Health Experts Want Safety Standards; Corporate Lobbyists Want Legal Immunity

CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY, NOT IMMUNITY

Welcome to the latest edition of “Corporate Accountability, Not Immunity,” a daily tipsheet highlighting key news and important facts on why Congress should not give corporations legal immunity from coronavirus-related harms to workers, consumers, patients and the public. Please send tips, feedback and questions to David Rosen at drosen@citizen.org.

PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERTS VS. CORPORATE LOBBYISTS: According to a study from the University of California, Berkeley, large-scale shutdowns backed by public health experts prevented an estimated 60 million COVID-19 infections in the U.S. and more than 500 million worldwide. The shutdowns were based on recommendations from epidemiological modeling teams that simulated the spread of the coronavirus under different sets of assumptions. Public health experts are calling for specific, enforceable, science-based safety standards, while corporate lobbyists are calling for sweeping immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits. The former have a track record of saving lives, while the latter have a record of prioritizing profits. Who will Congress listen to?

INFECTIONS SPIKE AT MEATPACKING PLANTS FOLLOWING TRUMP’S EXECUTIVE ORDER: In the wake of President Donald Trump’s executive order declaring meatpacking plants essential businesses that must remain open, the number of coronavirus cases linked to these facilities has increased by more than 100%, to 20,400 infections across 216 plants in 33 states and at least 74 reported worker deaths, according to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. Granting businesses immunity from lawsuits related to coronavirus harms while forcing employees back to work would risk replicating this disastrous outcome across countless industries.

STATES ARE UNDERREPORTING COVID-19 INFECTIONS, DEATHS: Fewer than half of states are following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on reporting coronavirus infections and fatalities. The current tally of approximately two million infections and 110,000 deaths in the U.S. is likely an undercount because states are failing to report probable COVID-19 cases and deaths to federal authorities. The uneven approach to documenting the impact of the pandemic, in combination with the absence of safety standards and enforcement reinforce that maintaining the ability of workers and consumers to hold companies accountable is vital.