DES MOINES, Iowa (WHO-TV) – Many cases in Iowa are being connected to the state’s meatpacking industry.
There are currently calls for that key parts of the nation’s food supply to be shut down.
On Monday, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said that the state’s processing facilities, such as the Perry Tyson plant, need to stay open.
But she acknowledged that COVID-19 is likely to spread quickly at the plants due to workers constantly being in close quarters.
“I don’t believe it’s going to require and executive order at this time. We’re going to continue to work with the plants and be proactive. I was on the phone with management from every single one of Iowa’s plant to see what they were doing, what steps they were taking, and see if we can help in any way. So we have to be doing everything that we can be doing collectively, to making sure we are doing infections control policies, to protecting the workers, and most importantly keeping that food supply chain moving,” said Gov. Reynolds.
The decision to keep meatpacking plants open is sparking a heated debate as workers and worker rights groups have called for the plant’s closures.
Last week, state lawmakers filied an official OSHA complaint said the coronavirus presents a danger to workers and the companies waited too long to take safety measures.
The lawmakers said it’s not just the companies they blame but state administrators as well for not intervening sooner.
“It’s past a threat. The cat is outta the bag. It’s already in a community spread mode,” said Senator Bill Dotzler (D-Waterloo).
“It is the state that runs our own Iowa OSHA inspection process and so that’s where the state has to step up and say ‘These are workplaces, that are absolutely critical to add to the list of urgent inspections.’ But the bigger crisis is if we let the workforce get completely infected by not taking precautions, we have a much longer shutdown period,” said Senator Nate Boulton (D-Des Moines).
Senators acknowledged when plants shut down it disrupts the entire supply chain but they add that temporary disruption is worth potentially save lives.
The Tyson Foods plant in Perry has shut down for a day for cleaning.