The meat-processing giant announced the move Thursday after Iowa officials said 555 of the Storm Lake facility’s 2,517 employees had tested positive for the potentially deadly virus. That’s about 22 percent of the plant’s workforce.
Tyson partly attributed the shutdown to worker absences and a delay in COVID-19 test results. The plant will restart operations next week after a deep cleaning, the Arkansas-based company said.
The closure came in the wake of President Trump’s late April executive order directing meat plants to stay open during the coronavirus crisis. The virus had forced roughly 20 slaughterhouses — including Tyson’s largest pork plant in Waterloo, Iowa — to close last month, raising concerns about meat shortages in the US.
The coronavirus has killed at least 44 meatpacking workers and infected more than 3,000, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said Thursday. The union joined farmers and ranchers in calling for increased testing and social distancing at plants, better access to protective equipment and other safety measures.
“When meatpacking plants struggle to contain this virus, it’s not just the workers inside like me who are at risk, family farmers and ranchers are too,” John Massalley, a Smithfield Foods worker in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, said in a statement.
Tyson said it has required employees to wear masks as part of the safety measures it has implemented. Its Storm Lake plant can kill some 17,250 pigs a day at full capacity, which made up about 3.5 percent of the nation’s production before the coronavirus pandemic.
With Post wires