555 workers at Tyson Foods plant in Iowa test positive for coronavirus, state's department of health confirms

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More than 22 percent of the employees at a Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Iowa have tested positive for coronavirus, the Iowa Department of Public Health said on Thursday.

Tyson Foods confirmed the facility, located in Storm Lake, would temporarily halt production in the interest of "the health and safety of our team members, their families and communities."

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Testing recently administered to workers at the Storm Lake facility resulted in 555 employees testing positive out of 2,517, the Des Moines Register reported, citing the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH).

Over the past few months, Tyson Foods facilities across the country have been forced to temporarily shutter following outbreaks of COVID-19, or staffing shortages caused by the pandemic. In late April, company chairman John H. Tyson even took out full-page ads in The New York Times, Washington Post and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to outline the company’s response to the ongoing coronavirus health crisis. At the time, he also stated that further closures — not only of Tyson Foods facilities, but competitors’ facilities as well — would put more stress on the nation’s food supply.

“The food supply chain is breaking,” he warned.

"Millions of animals – chickens, pigs and cattle – will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities. The food supply chain is breaking," wrote John H. Tyson, Tyson Foods' chairman, in a full-page ad published in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in April.

"Millions of animals – chickens, pigs and cattle – will be depopulated because of the closure of our processing facilities. The food supply chain is breaking," wrote John H. Tyson, Tyson Foods' chairman, in a full-page ad published in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in April. (iStock)

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Sarah Reisetter, the deputy director of IDPH, said Iowa businesses are being asked to report coronavirus outbreaks once they affect over 10 percent of that company’s workforce. Earlier this week, Reisetter had added that the IDPH would not be issuing public notices about major outbreaks at Iowa companies, but rather that the information would be available upon request from members of the media, the Des Moines Register reported.

"We've determined confirming outbreaks at businesses is only necessary when the employment setting constitutes a high-risk environment for the potential of COVID-19 transmission,” she said, per the outlet.

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In past weeks, Tyson Foods has, however, released the COVID-19 testing results at several different facilities across the country. Test results from the Storm Lake facility will be made public next week, a Tyson Foods spokesperson told the Register.

A representative for Tyson Foods said the Storm Lake plant will undergo a thorough cleaning before operations resume "later next week."

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Tyson Foods had previously shuttered plants in Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, Washington and Maine, among others, though most have since resumed production.