Tyson Foods to suspend operations at pork processing plant in Iowa

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A Tyson Fresh Meats plant stands in Waterloo, Iowa, date not known. On Friday, April 17, 2020, more than a dozen Iowa elected officials asked Tyson to close the pork processing plant because of the spread of the coronavirus among its workforce of nearly 3,000 people. (Jeff Reinitz/The Courier via AP)

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Tyson Foods announced on Wednesday that the company plans to indefinitely suspend operations at its Waterloo, Iowa pork plant this week.

Health officials in Iowa say a bump in local COVID-19 cases is due to an outbreak at the Waterloo Tyson plant, and a local newspaper, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, reported workers were coming in sick to the facility.

The Springdale-based food processor says the facility is the company’s largest pork plant and has been running at reduced levels of production due to worker absenteeism.

The Waterloo Plant will stop production mid-week until further notice, Tyson Foods said in a release.

“The closure has significant ramifications beyond our company, since the plant is part of a larger supply chain that includes hundreds of independent farmers, truckers, distributors and customers, including grocers,” said Steve Stouffer, group president of Tyson Fresh Meats, the beef and pork subsidiary of Tyson Foods, Inc. “It means the loss of a vital market outlet for farmers and further contributes to the disruption of the nation’s pork supply.”

Affected employees will continue to be compensated while the pant is closed, the company says.

Tyson Foods has implemented some measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in its facilities, including requiring and supplying face masks, taking worker temperatures, and conducting additional cleaning and sanitizing. The company says it has also implemented social distancing guidelines in break rooms.

The timing of resumption of operations will depend on several factors, including the “outcome of team member testing for COVID-19,” Tyson said.

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