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Baldwin calls for Senate hearing on CDC response to meatpacking plant coronavirus outbreak

Baldwin calls for Senate hearing on CDC response to meatpacking plant coronavirus outbreak
© Bonnie Cash

Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinSenate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap House Dems to unveil drug pricing measure ahead of Biden package World passes 3 million coronavirus deaths MORE (D-Wis.) called on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee to hold a hearing on the administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak at a Smithfield Foods meatpacking plant. 

Baldwin, the top Democrat on the panel’s Employment and Workforce Safety Subcommittee, wrote a letter on Thursday to HELP Chairman Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderThe Republicans' deep dive into nativism Senate GOP faces retirement brain drain The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - CDC news on gatherings a step toward normality MORE (R-Tenn.) and others to request a hearing with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert RedfieldRobert RedfieldThe dangers of pausing the J&J vaccine Clyburn: Documents show Trump officials helped suppress coronavirus CDC reports CDC director walks tightrope on pandemic messaging MORE, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny PerdueSonny PerdueThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Georgia election day is finally here; Trump hopes Pence 'comes through for us' to overturn results Civil war between MAGA, GOP establishment could hand Dems total control Trump administration races to finish environmental rules, actions MORE and Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Eugene ScaliaEugene ScaliaBiden should keep the new commonsense independent contractor rule Demolition at the Labor Department, too AFL-CIO calls on Trump to resign or be removed from office 'at once' MORE.

“We are now more than seven months into this fight, and we have yet to hold a hearing about the impact of this virus on workers. This is unacceptable, especially given the recent reporting and revelations regarding industry efforts to influence public health recommendations made by the CDC,” she wrote.

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The HELP Committee held a hearing with Redfield in September, and Baldwin asked him about the CDC guidance for the Smithfield plant outbreak in Sioux Falls, S.D. Redfield told her he did not have contact with the USDA, Smithfield or the White House regarding a CDC report, which she said was watered down, addressing the outbreak.

At least 1,294 Smithfield workers contracted the coronavirus, and four employees died from it, during the outbreak in April

CDC workers visited the plant and provided recommendations to reduce disease transmission. The recommendations were reportedly later withdrawn and watered down before a final version was released.

Redfield has also since said he did have conversations with USDA and DOL in April.

“Dr. Redfield defended the changes made to the report as edits to reflect that CDC is not a regulatory agency,” Baldwin wrote. “Recent reporting indicates that Dr. Redfield had an additional and previously undisclosed conversation about the CDC guidance for the Smithfield facility in question. A recent article in the New York Times reports that Dr. Redfield, at the direction of members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, including its chair Vice President Pence, altered the CDC report."

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Alexander’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter. 

Baldwin last week joined other Democrats, including Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayBiden's pre-K plan is a bipartisan opportunity to serve the nation's children Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel Senate Democrats push Biden over raising refugee cap MORE (Wash.), the top Democrat on the HELP Committee, to call on Scalia to provide information on the agency’s involvement with recommendations from the CDC to the Smithfield plant.

The Democrats requested Scalia provide copies of all communications between the Labor Department and the CDC or Agriculture Department regarding a site visit to Smithfield, citing that Redfield has since said he was in contact with the agencies about the Smithfield outbreak following his previous comments that he had no contact.