More than half of the workers at a Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Perry, Iowa, have tested positive for the CCP virus, commonly referred to as novel coronavirus, health officials announced May 5.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Dr. Caitlin Pedati, Medical Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, said she had approved the release of testing results of employees at a number of Iowa meatpacking plants and TPI Composites in Newton, deeming it necessary to protect the public health. Each of the facilities has a confirmed outbreak, meaning 10 percent or more of the workforce in a single location is sick or absent.
Sarah Reisetter, Deputy Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health said that a total of 730 workers at the plant in Perry had contracted the virus, representing 58 percent of its staff, reported WHOtv.
Iowa Premium Beef in Tama saw 258 positive tests, or 39 percent of its workforce, Reisetter said, while the Tyson plant in Columbus Junction had 221 positive tests, or 26 percent of its workforce. Tyson’s Waterloo facility had 444 positive cases, representing 17 percent of its employees, and TPI Composites in Newton had 131 positive tests, or 13 percent of its workforce.
Reisetter added that the department appreciated employers working with them to offer testing to employees as “identification and isolation of ill workers helps to prevent the spread of the virus within the community.”
In a statement issued on Monday, Tyson Foods said that “operationally, we have and expect to continue to face slowdowns and temporary idling of production facilities from team member shortages or choices we make to ensure operational safety.”
“The lower levels of productivity and higher costs of production we have experienced will likely continue in the short term until the effects of COVID-19 diminish,” the company added.
The company also said that the health and well-being of its staff remains a “top priority as we fulfill our critical role feeding the world in these uncertain times,” and that it has “instituted safeguards that meet or exceed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines at all [its] facilities” to ensure the safety of its staff.
A number of meat and poultry plants across the United States have shut down in recent weeks after employees contracted the virus, leading to warnings from top executives that a shortage may hit the country soon.
Last week, President Donald Trump signed a Defense Production Act order, designating meat processing plants as critical infrastructure and compelling them to stay open. Trump said he will also provide liability protection.