COVID Case Count At Reopened Tyson Meat Plant Doubles To More Than 1,000

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County officials’ tally of COVID-19 infections among workers at a newly reopened Tyson Foods plant is double the state’s count, officials said Thursday. 

The Tyson Waterloo meatpacking plant in Black Hawk County, Iowa, reopened Thursday after a two-week closure.

At a press conference, county officials said more than 1,000 workers in total at the plant had become infected with COVID-19 — about 37 percent of the plant’s 2,800 employees, according to the AP. That’s more than twice the figure the state had cited a day earlier.

Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said Wednesday that 444 workers at the Waterloo plant had tested positive during on-site testing at the plant, the Des Moines Register noted. But on Thursday county officials said the number was 1,031. The county figure accounted for those who had been tested elsewhere including at independent clinics, as well as those who had tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies.

“The 444 cases reported by the governor were confirmed PCR positive cases from the on-site testing at Tyson,” Joshua Pikora, the disease surveillance and investigation manager for the Black Hawk County health department, said at a news conference.

“Our numbers, the 1,031 reported cases, includes those positive test results from the on-site testing, positive test results from local health care providers here in Black Hawk County, as well as the positive serology tests that give us the complete picture of the scope of illness in our county,” Pikora said.

Meatpacking plants, where employees often work side-by-side, have become notorious for outbreaks of COVID-19.

President Donald Trump late last month signed an order classifying meat processing as critical infrastructure, saying that plant closures “threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain.”

Tyson, the Register noted, has said it installed protective barriers at workstations, or is otherwise requiring employees to wear masks and face shields. The plant is operating at 50% capacity.

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