Tyson Foods Stops Work at Iowa Plant Amid COVID-19 Cases

Tyson Foods Stops Work at Iowa Plant Amid COVID-19 Cases
(Tyson Foods)

Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale said Monday that it had suspended operations at an Iowa pork plant this week due to more than two dozen cases of COVID-19 involving employees there.

The publicly traded meat processor (NYSE: TSN) said in a news release attributed to CEO Noel White that it was diverting the livestock supply scheduled for the Columbus Junction plant to some of the other Tyson plants in the region.

Spokesman Gary Mickelson told The Associated Press that the plant's 1,400 workers would continue to be paid this week despite the suspension. He said the plant closed Monday and the company would revisit the closure at the end of the week.

The company said that some of its moves to protect employees and food products was slowing production. 

"Our meat and poultry plants are experiencing varying levels of production impact, due to the planned implementation of additional worker safety precautions and worker absenteeism," the company said in a statement.

Extra precautions include additional cleaning and sanitizing of facilities, erecting dividers between workstations and increasing the space between workers on the production floor.

The company said last week that it was restricting its facilities to visitors and screening employees before they enter company property. In some places, the company has deployed walk-through temperature scanners. It also announced $500 bonus payments to its truckers and other employees.

Tyson also said it was seeking personal protective equipment for employees — equipment that's been at a premium as state and federal governments seek PPEs for health care workers.

"We're also coordinating with federal agencies to emphasize the need for personal protective equipment to support our team members as we remain open," the company said. "We're working to secure an adequate supply of protective face coverings for production workers and have implemented interim protocols for temporary protective coverings, while observing food safety."

The moves come as Tyson shifts chicken, beef and pork production away from foodservice clients and to grocery stores, aiming to boost shipments to retailers, who have been slammed by consumer demand amid the pandemic.