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Iowa health officials confirm COVID-19 outbreak at Storm Lake Tyson plant

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Storm Lake Tyson Plant-exterior
Pork processing plant in Storm Lake, Iowa

UPDATE:

STORM LAKE, Iowa (KTIV) -- Iowa health officials have confirmed a COVID-19 outbreak at a pork plant in Storm Lake.

During the governor's news conference Thursday, officials with the Iowa Department of Public Health confirmed at least 555 employees at the Tyson pork plant in Storm Lake have tested positive for COVID-19. Officials say 2,517 people are employed by the plant, meaning over 20% of the plant's employees have tested positive.

For the IDPH to declare an outbreak, 10% of a company's employees need to test positive for COVID-19.

Between May 22 and May 27 Buena Vista County, where Storm Lake is located, reported 493 new COVID-19 cases. As of Thursday morning, state health officials say there have been 701 COVID-19 cases in Buena Vista County.

In an official statement on Wednesday, Tyson Foods said they have been working closely with local health officials and have conducted large-scale COVID-19 testing in Storm Lake.

The company said in the statement they will disclose test results with health and government officials, employees and other stakeholders.

Tyson says in they are temporarily halting operations at the pork plant in Storm Lake.

Tyson's full statement on the outbreak:

The health and safety of our team members, their families and communities is our top priority, and we continue to take all precautions to protect them.

As a result, Tyson has made the voluntary decision to temporarily halt operations at our Storm Lake, Iowa pork processing facility. This is due in part to a delay in COVID-19 testing results and team member absences related to quarantine and other factors. We will idle harvesting animals and finish processing over the next two days. Additional deep cleaning and sanitizing of the entire facility will be conducted before resuming operations later next week.

The company is working closely with local health officials and has completed COVID-19 testing of team members and contractors at the plant. Tyson will share verified test results, once complete data is available, with health and government officials, team members and other stakeholders as part of our efforts to help communities where we operate better understand the coronavirus and the protective measures that can be taken to help prevent its spread.

When operations resume, team members at Tyson’s Storm Lake facility will continue to have access to additional testing, daily clinical symptom screenings, nurse practitioners and enhanced education through Matrix Medical which has a mobile unit onsite. These programs are in addition to a host of protective measures Tyson has put in place that meet or exceed CDC and OSHA guidance for preventing COVID-19. The steps we have taken include:

  • Conducting wellness health screening of all team members each time they arrive at the facility, checking for symptoms such as coughing or shortness of breath in addition to continuing to check team members’ temperature.
  • Providing surgical-style face masks to every team member and requiring they are worn.
  • Requiring face shields in addition to face masks in the limited areas where neither barriers nor six-foot physical separation is practical.
  • Installing widespread hand sanitizer stations throughout our plants.
  • Designating additional dedicated social distance monitors stationed throughout the facility during all shifts to help ensure team members adhere to safety protocols and social distancing requirements.
  • Increasing short-term disability coverage to 90% of normal pay until June 30 to encourage team members to stay home when they are sick.
  • Doubling our “thank you” bonus for frontline workers to $120 million. Team members who cannot come to work because of illness or childcare issues related to COVID-19 will continue to qualify. 

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JOHNSTON, Iowa (KTIV) -- Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds held her daily news conference Thursday at 11 a.m. to update the public on the state's response to COVID-19.

KTIV App Users: To watch the news conference on KTIV.com, click here.

Click here to watch the news conference on KTIV'S Facebook page.

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Dean Welte

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