Iowa Tyson pork plant temporarily closed due to coronavirus

Due to more than two dozen cases of coronavirus involving team members at a Tyson pork plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, Tyson has suspended operations in an effort to minimize the impact on overall production. The livestock supply originally scheduled for delivery to Columbus Junction will be diverted to other Tyson pork plants in the region.

The COVID-19 has also impacted several beef plants. A National Beef packing plant stopped slaughtering cattle at another Iowa plant and JBS USA shut down work at a beef plant in Pennsylvania recently. One case of COVID-19 has also been confirmed at National Beef in Dodge City, Kansas.

Tyson CEO Noel White issued a statement on how the company is handling the COVID-19 pandemic, the safety of its workers and its game plan to keep viable plants open and production lines moving.

“We’re working hard to protect our team members during this ever-changing situation, while also ensuring we continue fulfilling our critical role of helping feed people across the country,” White said. “We’ve been taking the temperature of workers at all of our locations before they enter company facilities. We’re mostly using temporal thermometers, but at a few locations we’re beginning to implement infrared temperature scanners. In addition, we’ve stepped up deep cleaning and sanitizing of our facilities, especially in employee breakrooms, locker rooms and other areas, to protect our team members. This additional cleaning sometimes requires suspending at least one day of production.”

Noel said Tyson is also working with federal agencies to obtain more personal protective equipment to protect employees and continue food production. To abide by social distancing guidelines, Tyson has added dividers between workstations or increased space between workers on the production floor.

Although most packing plants are working to stay on schedule with the increased retail demand for meat, the Columbus Junction plant is not the only facility to be taken out of commission by the virus. In a Smithfield pork plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 80 employees have tested positive for COVID-19. The South Dakota Department of Health has identified the facility as a “hot spot” and officials are working closely with the business to make sure they are following the proper guidelines. “While these are challenging times, we remain committed to protecting our people while continuing to meet the needs of our customers and consumers across America,” White said.

In Dodge City, Kansas, the company stated in a news release the beef processing plant confirmed the case April 8. The employee, who has not been in the facility since late in the previous week is in the quarantine process and is expected to have a full recovery.

“We are in contact with the Ford County Health Department to ensure were taking the appropriate steps to address the needs of our employees, customers and community,” the company stated. “We are working with the guidance of these health care providers and authorities in determining the employee’s recent movements. Employees who are considered to have been exposed to this person have been notified and are taking the appropriate precautions needed.”

The company has conducted an additional full sanitation and disinfection of the facility including in employee common areas that meet public health standards. The company has a special emergency pay and benefit plan and employees who don’t feel well are required to stay at home.

Lacey Newlin can be reached at 580-748-1892 or [email protected].