STORM LAKE, Iowa (WHO) – Hundreds of Tyson Foods employees have tested positive for COVID-19, creating an outbreak in Buena Vista county.
Governor Kim Reynolds announced Thursday 555 people have tested positive at the Tyson Pork Processing facility in Storm Lake, which is 20% of its employees.
Storm Lake Resident Alex Kazos said it was only a matter of time.
“I’ve been waiting for the last couple three weeks for them to do the testing and with all the plants like Waterloo, Columbus junction, Perry I knew that it was just a matter of time and here we are,” Kazos said.
Storm Lake Resident Sherise Gibson said she knows people that work at the facility and is not pleased by the way the company is handling its safety measures.
“The people are toe to toe. No masks, no gloves. They’re like cattle in a caged area,” Gibson said.
Tyson Foods release a statement: “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.”
Buena Vista County Health Department Administrator Pam Bogue said the county has been tracking cases for a while now.
“We took a big jump from about 250 to the beginning of the week to 700 now, so I think its opened people’s eyes to the fact that we have COVID in our community and we need to listen and follow the precautions that we’ve been sharing with people,” Bogue said.
A TestIowa site has been operating in Storm Lake for two weeks and is estimated to close May 29th.
“There’s no happy medium here. Cause we don’t want the animals to die. We need our food, but more importantly we don’t want people to pass away,” Kazos said.
Tyson Foods full statement: “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.”