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October 27, 2022
What A Day
Toxic Jobs May Be Hazardous To Your Health

In This Episode

  • Pennsylvania Senate candidates John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz met on Tuesday for one of the most highly anticipated debates of this midterm election cycle. They covered everything from abortion rights to fracking to immigration, in a race that could determine control of Congress.
  • U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy recently released a report on how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed workplaces and its impact on workers’ mental health. Dr. Murthy joins us to discuss those findings, and how businesses are responding.
  • And in headlines: Iranian protesters marked 40 days since Mahsa Amini’s death, another woman claimed that Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker paid for her abortion, and Elon Musk made a splashy entrance to Twitter’s headquarters just days before he’s set to acquire the company.


Show Notes:



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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, October 27th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver. And this is What A Day promising as always, to release content with greater frequency than Rihanna. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And this is not a dig. A new album a day from Rihanna would be overwhelming. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. We’ve got lives to lead. 


Priyanka Aribindi: We do. [music break]


Juanita Tolliver: On today’s show, former White House chief of Staff Mark Meadows was ordered to testify in Georgia’s 2020 election interference probe. Plus, Elon Musk is on track to acquire Twitter by the end of the week. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But first, one of the most highly anticipated debates of this midterm election cycle took place on Tuesday night between Pennsylvania Senate candidates John Fetterman, who is a Democrat, and Dr. Oz who is a Republican. And uh let us not forget a New Jersey resident. They covered everything from abortion rights to fracking to immigration. And obviously, Pennsylvania voters were listening. But Democrats have been very vocal about what adding just two more Democratic senators across the country could do. So the results of this election go far beyond just Pennsylvania and people nationwide were paying attention. 


Juanita Tolliver: A big focus here has been on Fetterman’s health. He’s been recovering from a stroke since May, and he’s been open about the auditory processing issues that he’s been dealing with since then. Honestly, it took courage to even step onto that debate stage while he’s still in recovery, as well as with all the harmful ableist comments being made about his health. But Priyanka, break it down for me. How did he handle all of this at the debate? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, his campaign had requested a closed captioning system as an accommodation. So essentially behind the debate moderators, there were two large monitors showing the text of everything that was being said. You know, both questions and answers so Fetterman could read along. Both candidates agreed to it beforehand, but this was a first for any Senate debate. Voters polled beforehand said that candidate health is definitely important to them, and Fetterman knew that all eyes would be on him for this reason. So he addressed it head on right away. Take a listen: 


[clip of John Fetterman] Let’s also talk about the elephant in the room. I had a stroke. He’s never let me forget that. And I might miss some words during this debate. Mush two words together. But it knocked me down. But I’m going to keep coming back up. And this campaign is all about to me is about fighting for every one in Pennsylvania that ever got knocked down. 


Priyanka Aribindi: You can’t really tell in that clip. But the effects of the stroke on his ability to process speech were definitely visible during the debate. He would sometimes pause to either read the monitors or to think of a word. Sometimes he’d stumble over his words, you know? He explained that stuff like that does happen to him sometimes. But this ended up getting a lot of criticism from observers and the media very early into the debate. It sort of sparked this whole secondary debate online about whether the criticisms were fair game or if they were ablest. And some of them definitely did go quite a bit too far, in my opinion. It’s worth noting that Fetterman’s doctor has written two letters saying that he is capable of doing the job of a U.S. senator. And sitting Democratic Senator Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, who suffered a stroke himself back in January, tweeted his support, acknowledging that debates are hard in any circumstance, let alone five months after a stroke, and saying that he was, quote, “glad that voters saw the clear contrast in this crucial Senate race”, because for all of the auditory processing issues, any stumbles and words, Fetterman was still very clearly able to articulate his opinions where he stood on the issues and draw contrasts between himself and Dr. Oz. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. That was pretty easy to do based on what was coming out of Oz’s mouth. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: But one thing that has been clear since Fetterman’s Medical Emergency is that Republicans wanted to exploit it from the jump. They’ve been calling his health into question in some of the most harmful ways. But I truly appreciate the support that Fetterman is getting from Senator Luján, a sitting senator who has been through this and who knows what recovery is like and–. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: –Who is serving currently in the U.S. Senate. So that public support is essentially Luján communicating, yes, it’s possible for someone to serve and serve well after suffering a medical emergency like a stroke. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: But let’s get back to that substance, because that’s something that it’s clear there’s no contrast between these two candidates on the issue. The focus on Fetterman’s delivery ended up taking up too much attention away from the asinine things Oz was saying. Can you give us a rundown of the big takeaways Priyanka? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I definitely agree with you there. I mean, like all the headlines and the biggest takeaways were about Fetterman’s delivery, but there was a lot of things that were being said, especially by Dr. Oz, that were like off the wall wild. So the craziest one to me came when he said that an abortion should be a decision between a woman, her doctors, and local leaders. I don’t know how he could have made that sound any less appealing. You know, he really thought he did something there. But I mean, I guess he did. He underscored how nuts that sounds like many other Republican candidates. He repeatedly brought up crime and he tried to paint Fetterman as soft on it. He also claimed that the market was taking care of minimum wage, while Fetterman, on the other side of the stage, is saying that it’s a disgrace that the minimum wage is $7.25 and that he supports raising it to $15. And, you know, the cherry on top of it all is that Oz said that he would support whoever wins the Republican nomination in 2024. But he kind of tap danced around a follow up question about Trump and the January 6th investigation. This is the only debate between the two of them. You know, polling has become very close. It’s a tight race, very closely watched. But Fetterman did, as I said earlier, successfully differentiate himself from Dr. Oz and reiterate where he stands versus Dr. Oz does. Judging by that standard, it was made clear where these candidates stand. 


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m honestly so glad that Fetterman team wasted no time in cutting that ad of Oz saying that local political leaders need to be in charge of women’s health decisions and abortion decisions and emphasizing just how extremist that position is, not just for Oz. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: But all of the Republicans on the ticket in Pennsylvania. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. 


Juanita Tolliver: So shout out to the ad and digital editors on that one. But like you said, it’s going to be a tight race and it’s all going to come down to turnout. But from my vantage point, the choice is plain as day. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Truly. 


Juanita Tolliver: All right. And with health and well-being in mind, I got a chance to check in with the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy. And he and his team have been busy lately developing a report on toxic workplaces and spreading the word about COVID boosters. This report is a huge deal because it’s the first of its kind to be released by a surgeon general and the Department of Health and Human Services. And Dr. Murthy shared that the report is in response to the COVID 19 pandemic and how it changed workplaces and how it affected people’s mental health. Now, I’m sure we all have at least one horror story about a toxic experience at work. And this report names five clear frameworks and solutions for businesses to implement in order to prioritize the mental health and well-being of their employees. Dr. Murthy and I also discussed his recent trip with President Biden to receive a COVID booster shot and the president’s calls for more congressional funding ahead of the anticipated winter COVID surge. I started by asking the Surgeon General about how businesses have been responding to his report that calls on them to create more supportive and flexible workspaces. 


Dr. Vivek Murthy: You know, many workers have been struggling for a while, but now more than 80% of workers are saying that they want to work in a place that supports mental health and well-being. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Dr. Vivek Murthy: But the truth is, a lot of employers are out there as well trying to figure out how to respond to this need. And I know this because we’ve had conversations with many of them ever since I became surgeon general who have said, we know that our workers are struggling, but what do we need to do to help them? Is this only about pay? Is it about something else? How should we approach this challenge? And that’s why we put out this framework. It’s both for organizational leaders as well as for workers. And here’s the interesting thing, Juanita. When people invest in workplace mental health, it’s not just the workers who do better, but it’s the organizations, too. 


Juanita Tolliver: Like you said, when you prioritize people’s mental health and well-being, it’s good for business. That’s plain and simple. And I hope businesses see that. As a Black woman, I got to tell you, my heart stopped actually on the first framework. Protection from harm, especially as it relates to confronting systemic racism, confronting ableism, confronting microaggressions in the workplace. And I got to tell you, my experiences would have been a lot better. And I’m sure that also applies to other Black and Brown people in the workforce if something like this was in place. So I want to see that implemented immediately. But what are the two top frameworks that really jumped out to you as being the most beneficial and most important for workers. 


Dr. Vivek Murthy: Right, everyone wants to come to a workplace where they feel physically and psychologically safe? But there are also other essentials here, that we highlight. One which is actually quite underappreciated and may surprise people is around connection and community in the workplace. Having people that you feel connected to at work uh doesn’t mean you have to be best friends with them. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Dr. Vivek Murthy: But people who you understand and know as a human being and not just as a skillset. People who know you and who look out for you. That makes a huge difference. The third is around work life harmony, and this is where having boundaries between work and non-work life are so important. Look, the truth is, all of us have responsibilities outside of work. When we can’t fulfill those responsibilities, it creates stress in our lives. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yes. 


Dr. Vivek Murthy: And that stress does not stop when we enter work in the morning, we bring it to work with us. You know, if my child is sick, for example, and it’s going to affect how I am at work. And so the bottom line is, like when we give people time and support and space, paid leave, flexibility, but also respect that boundary between work and non-work time, we allow them to fulfill their lives outside of work, and that’s incredibly helpful. 


Juanita Tolliver: And I just appreciate just the humanity that you’re bringing to this conversation. And I do want to pivot a little bit to COVID 19, because earlier this week I saw that you were with President Biden when he went to get his COVID booster shot. And he talked a little bit in his remarks about the need for more people to get their boosters. But the president also made an explicit appeal to Congress for more COVID aid. And I think we can all agree that we are not in the same place as we were two years ago. But COVID is still an active threat to our health and well-being. So how would you characterize this moment that we’re in with COVID ahead of any feared surges? And at a moment when COVID related funding isn’t readily available like it was in the past?


Dr. Vivek Murthy: Oh Juanita, on the bright side, you know, we’ve come a long way. Now, you fast forward two years plus, and what we have shown is that people who are up to date with their vaccines have a dramatically lower risk of ending up in the hospital or dying even if they get COVID. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Dr. Vivek Murthy: We’ve also found that with the treatments that we have available, treatments like Paxlovid, which is a pill that you can take for five days after you get infected, that those medicines can also dramatically reduce your chances of ending up in the hospital or dying. So the bottom line is we have more tools to help us make it through this pandemic than we’ve ever had, and we’ve made them available to millions of people. That’s really, really good news. The concern I have–


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah. 


Dr. Vivek Murthy: –Going forward is how do we make sure people continue to have access to these tools? How do we keep investing in it as a country so that we can develop vaccines that are better and better and better, and then the next generation of vaccines that will hopefully address coronaviruses more broadly. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah. 


Dr. Vivek Murthy: How do we make sure that we’re developing the next generation of treatments as well? We’re fortunate to have an updated vaccine. So we want people to get that. But we also want to make sure we’re continuing to invest and stay ahead of the virus. And that’s where I do have a concern, because that requires uh financial investment– 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Dr. Vivek Murthy: –Where as con– Congress to take action and make sure those funds are available so we can invest in the science and the research and the production. So we are still pushing Congress for that. But those funds can’t come soon enough because the COVID virus is continuing to evolve. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Dr. Vivek Murthy: We’ve got to keep evolving with it. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. I was going to ask you about that because I’ve seen the reports about new variants. Do you have any concerns about preparedness and response to those variants as it relates to the current booster and as you already talked about, future boosters being developed? 


Dr. Vivek Murthy: Well, you know, the good news is that even though new variants are developing, our vaccine is very likely to be effective. You might still get a breakthrough infection, as they’re called, but your chances of ending up in the hospital or dying are remarkably lower. And this is particularly important, by the way, for the elderly. If you’re 65 years of age and up. 


If you’ve got multiple medical conditions that put you at higher risk, then it’s all the more important to get the maximum protection. Because winter is coming in the last two years, what have we seen that there’s been a surge in cases during the wintertime. So we want to be prepared and with up to date vaccines and treatments. You have a very good chance of making it through the winter and doing well. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah. And the president also made a very clear and direct appeal to immunocompromised individuals. You already mentioned elderly people. In addition to that, he mentioned that immunocompromised people will be facing a heightened risk, as you described, through the predicted surge in the winter. What recommendations do you have for immunocompromised people  their families about how best to protect themselves? 


Here are a few things that are important to know. One is, please do make sure you are up to date with  vaccine. Remember, ages five and up are eligible to get the updated vaccine. Number two, make sure that you know where to go in case you do get sick to get treatment. If you go COVIDgov, you can not only find places to get vaccinated, but you can find places to get Paxlovid and test to what they’re called test to treat sites. And the last few things, just remember  precautions. And finally, just remember that testing is an important resource here. And we now have coverage through insurance for testing. You can get up to eight tests covered by insurance every month. And if you want to ask people to test before they come to see you, if you want to test, but also to help keep other people safe, these are all tools we can use to help reduce the spread. 


Juanita Tolliver: That was my conversation with the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy. And we will link to the workplace report and vaccine information in the show notes. More on all of this very soon, but that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after ome ads. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines. 




Priyanka Aribindi: Yesterday marked the 40th day since Masa Amini was killed by Iran’s so-called morality police. Thousands of people gathered at Amin’s grave in her hometown in Iran’s Kurdish region to pay their respects. Deaths are commemorated 40 days after a person’s funeral within the Shia Islamic tradition. Demonstrators marched while chanting the two slogans that were tied to the protest Women, Life, Freedom and Death to the Dictator. But things took a violent turn when security forces opened fire on the mourners to disperse the crowd. It’s unclear how many people were killed or injured in the clash. But meanwhile, the U.S. imposed additional sanctions on 14 Iranian officials who have led the crackdown on nationwide protests sparked by Amin’s death. 


Juanita Tolliver: A jury convicted three men on Wednesday for their involvement in the 2020 plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The defendants are all members of the Wolverine Watchmen, a right wing anti-government militia group, and they were convicted on all of the charges against them, including providing, quote unquote, material support to a terrorist act. The were also found guilty on gang and firearms charges. This comes after Adam Fox, the ringleader of the scheme, was convicted back in August of conspiring to kidnap Whitmerlongside Barry Croft Jr. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Former White House chief of staff and prolific texter Mark Meadows was ordered to testify before the Georgia grand jury investigating possible interference into the state’s 2020 presidential election results. As we know, thanks to the January  committee, Meadows was one of the highest ranking officials who helped promote former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. A judge in South Carolina, where Meadows currently lives, gave the order, and a lawyer representing Meadows said yesterday that he would appeal the decision. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Where did that even come from? Like I thought that was a Ted Cruz thing. I’m a little confused. I don’t know if there’s a conspiracy here that I don’t know about. Please let me know if there is. But I’m very, very confused about this. Finally, Elon Musk buying Twitter was not just a bad dream that we all shared. The world’s richest man and one of its worst posters visited Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco yesterday. In another sign that he will close his $44 billion deal to acquire th social media platform, Musk’s deadline to do so is tomorrow, according to a judicial ruling. Musk also changed his bio on Twitter to Chief Twit and his location to Twitter HQ. ute little flourishes might not sit so well with Twitter employees, though. Last week it was reported that Musk plan to lay off as many as 75% of them, though the company said that there are no plans for layoffs. 


Juanita Tolliver: That they know of. Right. He walked into the building carrying a sink, of all things. But the reality is this is yet another billionaire cracking jokes at a moment when he’s going to lay off three quarters of the workforce at Twitter. As we head into a recession. Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: This man is so fundamentally unfunny and he just does not understand. It’s sad. It’s sad to see this happen, but someone’s got to be and  It’s fine. And those are the headlines. 


Juanita Tolliver: One more thing before we go. Election Day is coming up fast. And if you’re heading to the polls in person, you’re going to want to show off some threads from the rooked store. We’ve got new merch to show what you stand for on the most important issues from abortion rights to filibuster reform. Think of them like one of those I voted stickers that you can just put in the washing machine. Head over to to get your swag today. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribee. Try to wake up from the Elon Musk Twitter nightmare that we’re all living in and tell your friends to listen. 


Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just hundreds of incriminating text messages from Mark Meadows like me, hat  ay is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m  


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Juanita Tolliver: The more the. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Listen, we don’t have any software, but we do have vibes, so please come join us. 


Juanita Tolliver: Plenty of vibes, plenty of news, plenty of things to cover. So come on over. 


Priyanka Aribindi: What  ay is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by B Lanc Jazz Marine and Raven Yamamoto our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita artinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.