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Reynolds: State will test 2,700 at Waterloo Tyson plant

By: - April 17, 2020 2:17 pm

(Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Rocky Mountain Lab)

Amid COVID-19 outbreaks at meatpacking plants in Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Friday that 2,700 COVID-19 tests were being sent to the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Waterloo.

She said the State Hygienics Lab would process the tests over the weekend.

On Thursday, Reynolds said company officials had reported there were no outbreaks at the Waterloo plant. But on Friday, county health officials confirmed workers there had tested positive, the Waterloo Courier reported.

The Tyson plant in Columbus Junction has been closed since April 6 due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Eighty-six workers had tested positive there earlier this week.

Reynolds said while she and other state officials have been in contact with plant management, she has not spoken to groups representing workers.

“So I’ve really focused on like the HR or … the plant manager so that we can understand what the needs are. So we can, first of all, make sure that the employees are safe, and that they’re working in a safe environment. And testing is a critical component so that we can start to understand what the scope of the exposure has been,” she said.

She said Iowa’s Labor Commissioner has reported being “proactive in reaching out to businesses and processing plants and making sure that they understand what the Iowa Department of Public Health and the CDC guidelines are.”

She said worker complaints are being investigated. Workers with complaints can contact the COVID-19 Legal Aid hotline at (800) 332-0419. The hotline was established by the nonprofit organization Iowa Legal Aid in conjunction with the Iowa State Bar Association and Polk County Bar Association.

Reynolds emphasized the importance of keeping plants operating “so that we can keep the flow of food going out of Iowa throughout the nation and they are critical infrastructure, it’s essential that we do everything we can to protect the workforce while keeping these processing plants up and going,” she said.

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