US food prices see historic jump and are likely to stay high

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DES MOINES, Iowa — As if trips to the grocery store weren’t nerve-racking enough, U.S. shoppers lately have seen the costs of meat, eggs and even potatoes soar as the coronavirus has disrupted processing plants and distribution networks.

Overall, the cost of food bought to eat at home skyrocketed by the most in 46 years, and analysts caution that meat prices in particular could remain high as slaughterhouses struggle to maintain production levels while implementing procedures intended to keep workers healthy.

While price spikes for staples such as eggs and flour have eased as consumer demand has leveled off, prices remain volatile for carrots, potatoes and other produce because of transportation issues and the health of workers who pick crops and work in processing plants.

In short, supermarket customers and restaurant owners shouldn't expect prices to drop anytime soon.

Hardik Kalra stocks meat in a cooler at a local super market, Friday, May 29, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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“Our biggest concern is long-term food costs. I believe they will continue to go up,” said Julie Kalambokidis, co-owner of Adriano's Brick Oven, a restaurant in Glenwood, Iowa.

Tamra Kennedy, who owns nine Mexican-inspired fast food franchises in Iowa and Minnesota, joined Kalambokidis on a call set up by Iowa U.S. Rep. Cindy Axne and said sometimes even getting essential ingredients is difficult.

“You can pick an ingredient and I can tell you there are shortages,” she said.

Big fluctuations in food prices began in March, when the coronavirus pandemic began to sink in for U.S. consumers.

The Labor Department reports that the 2.6% jump in April food prices was the largest monthly increase in 46 years. Prices for meats, poultry, fish and eggs increased the most, rising 4.3%. Although the 2.9% jump in cereals and bakery products wasn't as steep, it was still the largest increase the agency has recorded.

Dairy and related products, and fruits and vegetables increased by 1.5 percent in April.

Egg prices also reached an all-time record of more than $3 a dozen in late March, but they have since fallen to less than $1 a dozen.

Carrots and eggs sit in a cooler at a local supermarket, Friday, May 29, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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The situation has been worse for meat prices, largely because of illnesses among slaughterhouse workers. The outbreaks struck pork processing plants the hardest, but beef and chicken processors also saw some impact as thousands of workers tested positive for the virus and the United Food and Commercial Workers union said at least 44 workers had died of COVID-19 as of Friday.

April retail prices for boneless pork chops and ham were nearly 6% higher than in March and retail prices for hamburger and sirloin steak were about 4% higher, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported. The price of whole fresh chickens rose by more than 12%.

Packages of meat sit in a cooler at a local super market, Friday, May 29, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

After numerous closures, most pork plants have reopened but often not at full capacity, forcing pig farmers to euthanize animals that couldn't be processed.

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Reopened US car factories see coronavirus cases as production rolls on

In the week since US auto factories reopened after coronavirus lockdowns, workers at all three Detroit automakers have tested positive for COVID-19 but only Ford has temporarily closed plants.

The US auto industry reopened many plants last week after a two-month shutdown due to the global pandemic. To ensure safety during the outbreak, companies imposed new safety measures, including screening employees, use of face masks and social distancing.

Ford paused production at its Claycomo, Mo., plant for an hour on Tuesday after a worker tested positive. Work resumed at the plant, which builds the F-150 pickup truck and Transit van, without workers being sent home following a deep cleaning, Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said Wednesday.

General Motors and Fiat Chrysler said Wednesday they have had workers test positive since the restart, but have not been forced to idle plants. They did not disclose the number of workers affected.

On Wednesday, a union leader at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant said on Twitter a worker there tested positive, but had not worked since May 21. Felker said the plant never closed.

Last week, Ford closed two assembly plants, due to a positive test at its Dearborn, Mich., factory and a parts shortage due to a positive test at a supplier that closed the Chicago plant. It had marked the second consecutive day for closures in Chicago following two positive tests.

United Auto Workers Local 600, which represents hourly workers in Dearborn, last week demanded testing for every worker there and that Ford shut down the plant for 24 hours after a positive test. Ford said the safety of its workers is a top priority and cited the safety measures it has developed in conjunction with the UAW.

In Mexico, Ford told workers it was targeting a May 28 restart at its Hermosillo plant. GM and FCA have restarted operations in Mexico.

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Apple will reopen 100 more US retail locations this week

Apple will open another 100 retail stores in the United States this week, though most won’t let customers inside.

The iPhone-maker will reopen stores across 21 states including New York, California and Texas according to Bloomberg.

The reopening locations will largely focus on repairing products and troubleshooting issues at Genius bar appointments, as well as preparing items for pick-up rather than making in-store sales. Apple has launched a number of products via press release over the past few months which it has sold on its website.

The reopened stores require temperature checks for employees and customers and will limit the number of people in the store at any one time.

Apple first closed its stores for two weeks on March 4, before extending the closure “indefinitely” on March 17. It began reopening locations earlier this month, beginning with six stores in Alabama, Alaska, South Carolina and Idaho.

“Our new social distance protocol allows for a limited number of visitors in the store at one time so there may be a delay for walk-in customers,” the company said at the time. “We recommend, where possible, customers buy online for contactless delivery or in-store pick up.”

CEO Tim Cook declined last month to provide an outlook for the June quarter, citing business uncertainty created by the virus. First-quarter sales in China, reflecting that country’s store closings and lockdown, were $9.46 billion, about $1 billion less than for the same period a year earlier.

Apple has 510 stores worldwide and 271 in the United States.

All Apple retail employees have continued to receive regular paychecks during the duration of the closures, Apple told The Post.

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It’s tough out there. But some small businesses have prospered

How about a little good news? Countless companies are facing terrible circumstances as a result of the downturn. Many may never return. But, as the saying goes, one person’s problem is another person’s opportunity. So even though the economy has been devastated, millions have become unemployed and countless small businesses are facing ruin, others have prospered.

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Tampa Bay’s Spaulding Decon, a cleaning company, has been – not surprisingly – busier than ever. “It’s been crazy. We’ve actually done over $30m in estimates in two weeks,” owner Laura Spaulding told the Tampa Bay Times. “In that period normally? It might be $100,000.”

The company, which has 24 offices across the country, has had its phones “ringing off the hook” and has been scrambling to hire extra workers to fulfill demand from restaurants, banks, government buildings, gyms and daycare facilities, even flying crews around the country to help in the busiest places.

Everyone’s been trapped indoors, which has been good news for a St Louis company called Puzzle Warehouse. The company has been breaking records selling puzzles, games and toys, shipping seven times the amount of items normally seen online and logging six times more sales in their store. “We’re not selling necessities,” marketing manager Greg Brown told the Riverfront Times. “We’re selling something to keep you entertained.”

Meanwhile, the online world has been booming. According to one report, e-commerce ad spending alone doubled in March, as consumers were forced to buy more stuff online. Of course, the giants like Amazon have benefited. But so also have the small craft makers on Etsy. They saw demand for masks explode, with the online platform disclosing that more than 12m face masks were sold during April, accounting for about $133m in sales. “It was like waking up and discovering it was Cyber Monday, except everyone in the world just wanted one product and that product was in extremely limited supply,” Etsy’s chief executive, Josh Silverman, said in a report by the Verge. It wasn’t just masks – Etsy reported that sales of other items surged 79% during the period too.

When people are stuck at home, they tend to eat more. Of course, the freelancers who work for delivery services like GrubHub, Caviar and Instacart have all benefited from the increased demand. But these are not the only deliveries that people are demanding. Portland, Oregon-based MilkRun, which connects consumers to farmers in their communities to buy local meat, dairy, produce and more saw its deliveries of these staples shoot up from an average 175 per week to more than 2,000. “It’s this crazy thing that gave life to MilkRun,” the company’s owner told the Portland Business Journal.

If you assume that many people have been moving their exercise regimes to their homes and that has created a demand for more exercise equipment, your assumption would be correct. But it’s not just the makers of the equipment that have benefited. Small companies like Goldens’ Foundry and Machine in Columbus, Georgia, are also seeing a boom in sales. The company, which has been around since the 1880s, has had orders for its kettle bells and dumbbells pouring in.

“We realized we were not going to be a good candidate for face masks and respirators. But iron? We know how to pour,” George Boyd, the company’s vice-president, told a local news station. “So, when we realized there was a shortage of kettle bells and dumbbells, we went in to help fill that void.”

And then there are the unforeseen businesses that have benefited from the pandemic. For example, there are people using online neighborhood community site NextDoor to barter goods and services, which has created an unexpected surge in traffic (and ad revenues) for the social service in cities across the country. There are the chiropractors in Pittsburgh who report increased demand from work-from-home employees complaining of back and neck pains. There’s the unprecedented demand for Cobol programmers, because the ancient computer language was used to construct many state unemployment systems that now need adjustments to accommodate more visitors and new rules from the federal government. There’s a reported comeback in drive-in movie theatres, as people want to see a good film while also practicing social distancing.

Finally, it’s probably not surprising that many small businesses in one industry are seeing spikes in sales because of the pandemic. That, of course, is the cannabis industry, with states like Nevada, Ohio and Oregon reporting record sales.

“We get to provide a little relief to a stressed society,” Mishka Ashbel, the co-owner of the MMD cannabis dispensary in Hollywood, California told the New Yorker. “It’s conducive to isolation, and it turns off the sensory overload from the news right now.”

Ashbel does warn of one consequence: “You might end up eating all of your quarantine food supplies.”

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US plans new armed talks aimed at limiting Russian, Chinese and US nuclear warheads

Trump: US likely to pull out of deal with Russia

President Trump discusses U.S.-Russia relations.

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President Trump's new arms-control negotiator is planning to meet with his Russian counterpart soon to discuss a new U.S. proposal for a far-reaching accord to limit all Russian, Chinese and U.S. nuclear warheads, U.S. officials disclosed Thursday.

The talks will mark the first time the Trump administration has opened negotiations on an agreement to replace the New START accord, which covers Russian and U.S. long-range nuclear arms and is due to expire in February.

The disclosure of the new talks came as the Trump administration moved to withdraw from an old agreement: the separate Open Skies treaty, a nearly three-decade-old accord intended to reduce the risk of war between Russia and the West.

Marshall Billingslea, who took up his post last month as Mr. Trump's senior envoy on arms control, will launch the new talks with Sergei Ryabkov, the deputy Russian foreign minister. They have been working to finalize the agenda for the meeting, which is likely to take place in Vienna.

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"We have agreed that as soon as possible, taking into account the Covid virus, we will get together to begin negotiations," a senior Trump administration official said.

The new U.S. proposal is far more ambitious than the 2010 New START accord, not least because it seeks to convince China to join the negotiations. U.S. officials said the wide-ranging deal is necessary because of the projected growth in the Chinese and Russian nuclear arsenals.

Critics warn the Trump administration strategy amounts to an overreach — and could lead to a deadlock that will undermine the existing arms-control framework, which has already begun to fray.

Concern over the prospects for arms control was expressed by European officials after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. will give six months' notice to treaty participants that it is leaving the 1992 Open Skies accord, which allows the West and Russia to carry out reconnaissance flights over each other's territories to build confidence that an attack isn't being planned.

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The U.S. has accused Russia of denying Western planes full access in flights over its territory. Defending his decision, Mr. Trump said he would seek to maintain good relations with Russia by pursuing other arms control agreements or perhaps rejoin the Open Skies accord if Moscow addressed U.S. concerns.

"There's a very good chance that we'll make a new agreement or do something to put that agreement back together," Mr. Trump said. "We're going to pull out and they are going to come back and want to make a deal."

Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko of Russia said the U.S. had relied on "contrived pretexts" in taking its decision and that it was, part of a pattern of "destructive steps in the sphere of strategic stability and security," state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

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China, which has with a much smaller nuclear arsenal than the U.S. and Russia, has repeatedly said it won't be party to a three-way nuclear accord. Beijing has no history of allowing intrusive arms-control verification on its territory.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in January that Beijing had "no intention to participate" in three-way arms talks. He charged that Washington was demanding that China join such negotiations as "a pretext to shirk and shift its own nuclear disarmament responsibilities." A spokesman for the Chinese embassy didn't respond to a request for comment.

President Donald Trump speaks during a listening session with African-American leaders at Ford’s Rawsonville Components Plant that has been converted to making personal protection and medical equipment, Thursday, May 21, 2020, in Ypsilanti, Mich. (AP

Mr. Billingslea, however, has told the Russians that they need to help bring China to the negotiating table. The U.S. plans to use diplomatic — and possibly economic leverage, some officials hint — to insist that Beijing participate, U.S. officials said.

"I am not going to pretend that this is going to be easy. It is something new: The trilateralization of nuclear arms control," the senior Trump administration official said. "The Chinese do not have the same history with arms-control verification, so this will be a learning experience for them, but it is an experience we expect them to gain."

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The new U.S. proposal, in another break from New START, would also cover all nuclear warheads, including those kept in storage or which are mounted on short-range systems.

Such a provision would enable the U.S. to constrain Russia's arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons, which American officials assert is growing, as well as Chinese warheads, which some experts believed are kept in storage and not mounted on missiles on a day-to-day basis. Specifically, the U.S. wants Russia to eliminate its nuclear warheads for ground-based short-range missiles — something Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev pledged to do in 1991.

Verifying limits on warhead stockpiles, experts say, is much more difficult than counting large missiles, bombers and submarines that carry nuclear weapons and would require much more stringent monitoring measures.

The Trump administration says that it plans to propose more intrusive verification measures than under New START. This includes a demand for greater sharing of missile-test telemetry and measures that allow faster on-site inspections.

The British and French nuclear forces wouldn't be part of the accord under the U.S. plan, though Russian officials have sometimes argued that they should.

Negotiating a major arms-control treaty is a yearslong process, raising the question of what constraints will be kept in place once the negotiations are under way.

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The New START treaty can be extended for as many as five years by mutual consent. But Trump officials have hinted the U.S. may not do so unless the new three-way negotiations have begun and are making headway.

The collapse of the New START constraints, and the verification provisions it includes, would mark a further unraveling of the arms-control regime. Last year, the U.S. withdrew from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which it alleged Moscow was violating.

Of all the looming obstacles toward a new accord, the principal one is persuading China to join.

China has about 320 warheads, according to the Federation of American Scientists. That is a fraction of the 1,750 nuclear weapons the U.S. has deployed on its long-range and shorter-range systems, among the 3,800 warheads in the U.S. stockpile, according to the group's estimate.

The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency has said, however, that the Chinese arsenal is expected to at least double over the next decade.

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Frank Klotz — a retired three-star general and the former head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the development of the U.S. nuclear arsenal — said that the idea of drawing China into a new three-way accord was fraught with difficulties.

Establishing equal limits on Chinese, U.S. and Russian forces wouldn't be an option in seeking a new agreement because Washington doesn't want to allow China to match the current American level. Nor does the Pentagon want to cut its force to China's level.

"Why would the Chinese agree to be locked into a three-way agreement at significantly lower numbers than the U.S.?" Mr. Klotz said. "Why would Russia or the U.S. agree to allow China to have numbers equal to Russia and the U.S."

–Gordon Lubold and James Marson contributed to this article.

Write to Michael R. Gordon at [email protected]

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US meat exports surge as industry struggles to meet demand

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OMAHA, Neb. — U.S. meat exports are surging even as the industry is struggling to meet domestic demand because of coronavirus outbreaks at processing plants that have sickened hundreds of workers and caused companies to scramble to improve conditions.

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Although the situation could cause concern that American workers are risking their health to meet foreign demand, experts say it shouldn’t because much of the meat sold to other countries is cuts that Americans generally don’t eat. And at least one of the four major processors says it has reduced exports during the pandemic.

If companies manage to keep their workers healthy and plants operating, there should be plenty of supply to satisfy domestic and foreign markets, according to industry officials.

“I really feel like the industry is well positioned to serve all of its customers both here and abroad,” said Joe Schuele, a spokesman for the industry trade group U.S. Meat Export Federation.

Meat exports, particularly pork exports to China, grew significantly throughout the first three months of the year. This was partly due to several new trade agreements that were completed before the coronavirus outbreak led to the temporary closure of dozens of U.S. meatpacking plants in April and May and to increased absenteeism at many plants that reduced their output.

The Meat Export Federation said pork exports jumped 40% and beef exports grew 9% during the first three months of the year. Chicken exports, meanwhile, grew by 8% in the first quarter. Complete figures weren’t yet available for April, but Agriculture Department figures for the last week of April show that pork exports jumped by 40% as shipments to China and Japan surged and exports to Mexico and Canada remained strong. Beef exports declined by 22% in that last week of April.

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China’s demand for imported pork has risen over the past year because its own pig herds were decimated by an outbreak of African swine fever, and China pledged to buy $40 billion in U.S. agricultural products per year under a trade pact signed in January. China also became the fourth-largest market for American poultry in the first quarter after it lifted a five-year ban on those products. A trade agreement with Japan and a new North American free trade agreement also helped boost exports.

Part of the reason why exports have continued to be so strong this spring is that much of the meat headed overseas was bought up to six months ahead of time — before the virus outbreak took hold in the U.S.

“A lot of these sales were made before COVID-19 hit. China had already made these purchases and then COVID-19 hit. They had actually pre-purchased a lot of this before the plant problems hit,” said Chad Hart, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University.

It’s also worth noting that meat exports to China and other Asian markets include cuts such as pig feet, snouts and internal organs that have little value in the United States. The most popular cuts in the U.S., including bacon and pork chops, largely stay in the domestic market. More than half of the chicken exports to China were chicken feet. And the Meat Export Federation says demand from the export market helps boost meat production in the U.S. because more animals are slaughtered to help meet all the demand.

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Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said he doesn’t think it makes sense to restrict exports because so much of the meat sold internationally isn’t popular in the U.S.

“I think it’s important to prioritize,” said Naig, whose state leads the nation in pork production. “I think companies should meet the domestic market first and then be free to sell the things that the American consumer doesn’t purchase and the types of things that we don’t normally consume. That’s economically important.”

Meat production in the United States is dominated by a few huge companies — JBS, Smithfield, Tyson Foods and Cargill. Cameron Bruett, a spokesman for JBS, said that Brazilian-owned company has reduced exports to help ensure it can satisfy U.S. demand for its products. Tyson Foods and Cargill didn’t respond to questions about their exports.

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Smithfield Foods, which is owned by a Chinese company, said in a statement that it isn’t controlled by any government and that the free market determines what products it exports. JBS declined to respond to questions about its foreign ownership. Purdue University agricultural economist Jayson Lusk said it’s not clear what role the foreign owners play in deciding how much meat is exported.

FILE – In this April 9, 2020 file photo employees and family members protest outside a Smithfield Foods processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D. The plant has had an outbreak of coronavirus cases according to Gov. Kristi Noem. (AP Photo/Stephen Groves F

The industry has been dealing with a number of production challenges caused by the coronavirus, and several large plants had to close temporarily because of outbreaks of COVID-19, the disease it causes. At least 30 U.S. meatpacking workers have died of COVID-19 and another 10,000 have been infected or exposed to the virus, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents roughly 80% of the country’s beef and pork workers and 33% of its poultry workers.

Kansas State agricultural economist Glynn Tonsor said he thinks the industry will get past the shortage concerns within the next several weeks.

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“I think it’s important that we note that the U.S. hog industry is large enough to sufficiently supply our domestic market and export. We’ve done that for some time. We’ve been growing volumes in both places for some time,” Tonsor said.

Tyson and Smithfield have both been able to reopen huge pork processing plants that were temporarily closed in Iowa and South Dakota, which should help the industry keep up with demand even if some plants aren’t running at full capacity, said David Herring, of the National Pork Producers Council.

“I really don’t think we’ll see a big problem with meat shortages,” said Herring, who raises hogs near Lillington, North Carolina. “As long as the plants are able to come back up and operate maybe not at 100% but at 80% or 90%, I think we should be good.”

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Apple to reopen select US stores next week

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Apple will start reopening some of its U.S. stores next week.

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The tech company will reopen some retail locations in Idaho, South Carolina, Alabama and Alaska, a company spokesperson told FOX Business.

"Our team is constantly monitoring local health data and government guidance, and as soon as we can safely open our stores, we will," the spokesperson said.

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Apple plans to follow social distancing guidelines and allow a limited number of customers inside the stores. That could lead to delays for walk-in customers, Apple warned.

Additionally, customers will be required to wear masks inside the stores and will have to undergo temperature checks before they can enter.

In this Feb. 26, 2020, photo, a worker polishes iPhones in an Apple store in Beijing. In a lively Muslim quarter of Nanchang city in eastern China, a sprawling Chinese factory turns out computer screens, cameras and fingerprint scanners for a supplie

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The company is recommending that customers buy online for contactless delivery or in-store pickup when possible.

Apple’s 270 U.S. retail stores have been closed since early April due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Pandemic Therapy for the 1 Percent: More Money, Different Problems

It was a haircut well worth $2,000—at least according to one of neuropsychologist Judy Ho’s patients. As California’s lockdown continues, she’s watched agog as some folks in her Los Angeles-based private practice continue to flout it.

“Because of their wealth, some of my clients have felt largely invincible for a long time, but now they feel so powerless,” says Ho, who’s also a tenured professor at Pepperdine University and whose client base is largely Angeleno 1 Percenters. “How do you take back that power? You pay someone top dollar to do your hair.” (She notes that the client didn’t consider how desperate unemployed stylists must be to break rules for a cut ’n’ color.)

Other anxiety-stricken clients have opted to move into residential treatment centers to hunker down, only to find themselves chafing at separation from their families and the regulations under which they’re expected to live there. “They say, ‘I’m paying $90,000 per month to stay here, and I can’t go outside to take a walk?’”

Another client—who opted to technically self-isolate at home, rather than check into one of those facilities—is proving more troublesome. She’s so high-profile that she can’t be left alone and requires bodyguards. Yet she doesn’t socially distance from them, insists on going out regularly for drives, and won’t wear a mask. Two of her security team have quit.

“She’s a bit selfish, but it’s more that she doesn’t really understand the direness of the situation. She is an on-and-off substance abuser, too, who might be high when all these people are quitting [their jobs] around her,” Ho says. “We had a nurse who used to go and do her substance abuse testing every morning—you know, draw her blood and take her urine. She just quit, too, because my client wouldn’t respect social distancing. Now we’re desperately trying to hire someone else to go there.”

Coping in the current pandemic is tough in many ways, including psychologically, so it’s no wonder that many therapists such as Ho have seen business surge as clients turn to them for guidance amid the unknown. Doctors who specialize in high-net-worth patients are encountering problems distinctive to their clients, and so they’ve found ways to ensure their own self-care and psychic soothing.

Ginger Poag, who’s based outside Nashville and whose client roster centers on senior figures in the country music industry, estimates that she’s 20% busier than normal. Now she takes time to do her yoga nidra (a kind of guided meditation) daily, rather than three times a week, which had been her routine. The practice is believed to function like a turbocharged nap; devotees claim that an hour or so might refresh you as much as several hours’ sleep.

Poag’s client base felt the impact of the downturn immediately, because they’re not earning money from touring or shows. They often have the added stress of dependents such as parents they support. Still, for those with several homes, many have adopted the solution of rotating among their houses by private jet.

“They will wait while the staff comes in to clean, get groceries, do all the housekeeping” at one location, Poag says. “They’ll wait a certain amount of time, maybe three days, with no one entering the house, then they’ll move there.” Once bored with those surroundings, they’ll charge staff to tee up another location—the Palm Beach, Fla., house, perhaps—and repeat the process.

Sanam Hafeez’s clients are also worried about houses—although in her case, the Manhattan-based therapist is hearing more about vacation rentals. “One patient is neurotic that she won’t find a ‘great’ Hamptons rental, because all the prices will be sky-high because people in New York City have already decamped to the Hamptons. She is worried that the house she and her husband will be able to afford will be too modest to show her friends,” Hafeez says.

Another patient frets over her appearance. “She’s obsessed with the fact that she has gained weight in quarantine and cannot have her trainer now, as she usually does five days a week. She is truly in a panic about looking ‘bikini ready’ in time for summer.”

That’s not to say that these sorts of anxieties don’t also run among the less wealthy. At root is the loss of one’s sense of “normal,” however defined. Money can allow someone the space to fixate on what might seem a secondary concern to an outsider with a primary concern—such as not having a paycheck. “It’s more about being obsessive-compulsive,” Hafeez says. 

She’s focusing on how the lockdown has given her unexpected bonus time with her 5-year-old twin boys. “I think they might look back fondly on this time—and so will we. We’ve never had this kind of unfettered access to our children without all the running around to class or swim lessons.”

Her motto for herself and others spending unexpected bonus time with their children is simple: “Cherish and enjoy it.”

Resa Hayes, an expert on co-parenting mediation and family therapy, splits her time between the 1 Percenter enclaves of Aspen, Colo., and Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Her clients often share children but live in different states, she explains, and normally can easily shuttle between them by jet.

The pandemic has made those plans more complex: One client lives in a blended family in L.A., while her former spouse and their 6-year-old daughter are based in Aspen. “So she ended up coming to Aspen on their private jet with her infant until this levels out; she left her new husband and stepchildren in L.A.” This unusual situation, and the woman opting to move temporarily to Aspen, muddies the agreement between the exes, of course, in ways that Hayes expects to hear about.

Another of her clients is the mother in a family on Park Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “She must be 55, and this is the first time she’s ever cooked anything for her family,” Hayes says. “The biggest dilemma of her day right now is which brownie mix to buy at the grocery store. She is loving it in some ways—staying at home, acting like a domestic goddess. But I don’t think she will keep cooking once this all passes. It’s fun, but it’s vacation-style fun.”

Hayes finds solace amid the stress from the outdoors: Aspen’s jet set reputation was first built on its natural beauty. “Go for a walk in nature now. It’s a reminder that some things haven’t changed, no matter what happens to your portfolio or people getting sick,” she says, “I think the most dangerous part of Covid-19 is the loneliness part. So I make sure to connect with people who are beyond my work circle or my own family. It soothes me to have conversations beyond that.”

Having money may make this time pass easier, but it doesn’t inure one from tragedy. Connecticut-based Darby Fox has been helping one client through the aftermath of a 60-year-old Wall Street titan’s shooting himself after suffering huge losses.

“If you think of yourself as an omnipotent person with control and power, it’s unbearable when that is taken away. The only solution is to get out—it’s an all-or-nothing mentality,” Fox says. (If you or anyone you know is struggling, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can help at 800-273-8255.)

Fox’s family therapy business is up about one-third since the pandemic hit, and she’s also seeing the emotional impact of shelter-in-place on couples unused to sharing each other’s space or even each other’s lives. “In an affluent relationship, you can easily live an almost completely separate life from your spouse, normally. The only time you’re together is in a very social setting—say, cocktails at the club. Suddenly, now you’re in the same space and can’t turn to the outside to help with your needs.”

“It doesn’t matter how many square feet you have, you only have each other,” she says, citing one couple. He works in Manhattan and effectively lives there during the week while his wife remains at the family’s main home on Long Island. They’re now living together out east, and their relationship is strained. “All of a sudden, he’s in her space, and he feels like he should be her priority. They can’t get anything right. Even what they’re having for dinner is an argument.”

Fox, though, is finding some joy in the changed circumstances of the pandemic. All of her own children, twentysomething professionals, have moved back home until New York normalizes. They do yoga together or cook dinner as a family (in her case, argument-free).

More than anything, though, she’s seized the chance during the lockdown to relax a little. Yes, she has more client appointments than ever, but she’s no longer commuting. With additional time on her hands each day, she has posed the same question to herself as to her clients: “Where do you find joy?” For Fox, the answer is keep it all slow and simple: “I stay in bed and do a little reading. Everybody wants to feel productive during this time, but the most important thing is to figure out what you consider productive,” she pauses, “It’s OK to dial it back a little.”

Los Angeles’s Ho knows exactly what Fox means. The frenzy among her high-net-worth clients has required her to restate her boundaries, even when interacting virtually. She’s long insisted that demanding patients who bombard her with text messages finesse their communications, marking truly urgent messages with “A,” less-urgent ones with “B,” and so on.

Recently, she’s had to remind folks of that again, including one older male client, a major chief executive officer who seems to mistake Ho for one of his five assistants. He said he would pay her double if she prioritized every one of his voicemails and texts. She told him that he should follow her system—or she could recommend another professional.

“I’ve offered [a referral] a few times,” she says, “but I’ve not had anyone take me up on that.”

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US beef output tumbles as meat plants prepare to reopen

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Shoppers are encountering limits to how much meat they can buy at the supermarket as the meat industry tries to return to normal after roughly three percent of employees at infected meat and poultry processing plants contracted coronavirus.

Major producers including Smithfield Foods, Tyson Foods and Cargill had to shutter plants in April after workers contracted the virus. Now facilities including a Tyson Foods pork plant in Logansport, Ind., will begin to restart this week.

SMITHFIELD PUSHES BACK AFTER CLAIMS IT BLAMED IMMIGRANT WORKERS FOR CORONAVIRUS CLUSTER

But the companies may have to play catch-up because of falling livestock slaughter rates. For example, cattle slaughter fell 37% last week compared to the same period in 2019, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

Equipping workers to prevent the spread of the virus could slow down plant activity, too.

In this April 14, 2020, photo, a package of Smithfield Foods breakfast sausage sits in a shopping cart outside of a local grocery story, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

"Should they have done this five weeks ago? Eight weeks ago? Yes, but the reality is we are where we’re at right now," food supply chain expert Howard Dorman of accounting and consulting firm Mazars USA told FOX Business.

TYSON WARNS OF CORONAVIRUS-RELATED US MEAT SHORTAGES AS LIVESTOCK PLANTS SHUT DOWN

One hundred fifteen meat and poultry processing plants in 19 states reported coronavirus cases, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. More than 4,900 workers contracted the virus and 20 died.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
TSN TYSON FOODS INC. 60.01 -2.18 -3.51%

"While the [Logansport] facility was idled, we added more workstation barriers, installed more hand sanitizer dispensers, and did additional deep cleaning and sanitation," Tyson senior vice president of pork Todd Neff said in a statement. "We're also now screening employees for additional symptoms and designating monitors to help enforce social distancing, while following the CDC and OSHA's guidance for Meat and Poultry Processing Workers and Employers."

Shoppers may see a decline in "options" from Tyson on the meat aisle, a Tyson spokesperson told FOX Business last week.

The company praised President Trump last week for signing an executive order designed to keep meat processing plants operating under the Defense Production Act.

In this April 9, 2020 file photo employees and family members protest outside a Smithfield Foods processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D. (AP Photo/Stephen Groves File)

"We have ample supply, but there was a bottleneck caused by this whole pandemic, and it was potentially pretty serious," Trump said at the White House on Wednesday. "The big companies you've been reading about … we've solved their problems."

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United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union President Marc Perrone took aim at the executive order in a statement last week. Perron's organization represents more than 250,000 meatpacking and food processing workers.

“Meatpacking and poultry workers have been working tirelessly through this health crisis so that millions of Americans continue to have access to the food they need," Perrone said. "President Trump's executive order now mandates that they continue to do so, without any language that ensures their safety. Let me be clear, the best way to protect America's food supply, to keep these plants open, is to protect America’s meatpacking workers."

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US oil prices fall below zero for the first time ever

New York (CNN Business)A popular fund geared to track the price of oil has imploded in recent days as crude plummeted into negative territory.

The United States Oil Fund (USO) fell nearly 20% in early trading Tuesday following a more-than 10% drop Monday. The USO exchange-traded fund has plunged 75% in 2020.
Crude to be delivered in May dropped to $-37.60 a barrel Monday because of an unprecedented shock to both demand and supply during the global Covid-19 pandemic.

    Travel has ground to a virtual standstill, slashing demand for oil. Oil producers have run out of storage capacity and are willing to pay to have all the excess supply stored offshore. Hence, the negative prices.
    Some experts have argued that big oil ETFs like the USO are exacerbating the problem because they invest primarily in futures contracts for the next month.


    The USO ETF currently has more than $4 billion in assets under management, which makes it the largest oil fund — allowing it to have an outsized impact on the energy markets.
    But the company that runs the USO ETF, USCF Investments, has made some recent changes to how it manages the fund to lessen the pain from falling near-term crude prices.
    USCF disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Tuesday that it will temporarily stop issuing so-called “creation baskets” — new shares that own the oil contracts.
    That move, in theory, could slow the bleeding a bit for existing shares. But USO prices will probably continue to fall as long as oil prices plunge.
    USCF said in another regulatory filing last week that it will begin investing 80% of its portfolio in crude oil futures contracts for the so-called front month contract and the remainder in crude oil futures for the second-month contract.
    But there’s another twist.
    What does it mean when oil prices go negative? No, it doesn't mean the gas station will pay you to fill up
    USCF added that in the last two weeks before the front month contract is set to expire, it will roll its investments into the second and third month contracts.
    Here’s what that means: The May contract is set to expire later Tuesday. So the USO ETF should no longer own any futures tied to the negatively priced oil contracts. The fund’s assets should be in June and July futures, which have also fallen sharply in recent days but not nearly as dramatically as May crude prices.
    USCF was not immediately available for comment about the turmoil in the oil market and respond to allegations that it was a contributor to the stunning drop in crude prices.

      But one expert said ETFs aren’t the cause of the oil price problems.
      “It’s simply a case of having nowhere to store all this oil and futures traders have to sell the contract if they have no ability to take delivery of the oil. The usual buyers just don’t want those barrels of oil right now. There is a glut of oil,” said Chris Gaffney, president of world markets for TIAA Bank.
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