COLUMBUS JUNCTION, IOWA – Officials at the Tyson Fresh Meats pork plant in Columbus Junction had planned to resume operations at the facility the week of April 13 after 24 employees testing positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) caused it to close this past week. On April 14, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced 86 additional positive cases were found to be related to the outbreak at the Tyson plant and company officials confirmed operations will not resume as planned.
“Protecting our team members continues to be top priority for us,” said Gary Mickelson, Tyson spokesperson. “As we continue assessing the situation at our Columbus Junction pork facility, and partnering with our local health department, we will extend the suspension of operations for this week.”
The plant’s 1,300 workers will continue to be paid during this time and the hogs planned for delivery to the facility will continue being diverted to other Tyson plants in the area when possible, Mr. Mickelson said.
During the announcement of the initial closure, the company said it was performing additional sanitation at the plant as well as taking steps to ensure social distancing for employees and working with government officials to secure personal protection equipment for employees. To more efficiently and safely check the temperature of all workers, Tyson announced on April 13, that it invested in more than 150 infrared walk-through temperature scanners. The company said the scanners have been installed in its pork plants in Iowa and Indiana and two of its poultry facilities in Arkansas and Georgia.
In Washington state, health officials confirmed on April 14 that 30 workers at Tyson’s Pasco plant tested positive for COVID-19. Mr. Mickelson confirmed the plant remained open while monitoring the situation with public health officials and taking additional precautions.
The governor of Washington announced on April 14 a total of 189 new cases in the state and six additional deaths. Iowa has reported 1,899 positive cases to date and 49 deaths.