IOWA: Tyson Foods plant closes after 86 more employees test positive

Workers at the plant have been prioritized for testing as cases in Louisa County continue to rise.
Tyson Foods

COLUMBUS JUNCTION, IOWA — Tuesday, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and health officials confirmed 186 new positive COVID-19 cases in the state. Of those, 86 were linked to employees at the Tyson Foods plant in Columbus Junction.

In recent days, workers at the plant have been prioritized for testing.

Last week, Tyson temporarily suspended production at the plant after acknowledging that more than two dozen of its 1,400 workers had the virus. The company said Monday that the temporary closure would continue this week.

Reynolds said the state made more tests available to Tyson employees as part of a plan to understand the scope of the outbreak and get the plant reopened. The governor praised Tyson’s handling of the situation and said the company, not the state, would decide when it’s safe to resume production.

“They have really been very proactive in making sure what when they stand the plant back up, they are doing everything they can not just to protect the employees but to continue a really critical part of our food supply chain,” Reynolds said.

Fueled by the Tyson outbreak, more than 1% of the 11,000 residents of rural Louisa County have tested positive for coronavirus, the highest percentage in the state. But local officials said they have the situation under control.

“Things are fine here in Columbus Junction,” Mayor Mark Huston said. “It would be nice to get the economy going again because the streets are pretty quiet.”

Reynolds said state officials were assisting other companies with reported cases. The Iowa Premium beef plant in Tama closed this week after several of its 850 employees tested positive.

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