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Tyson Says 815 Workers Between Two Western Iowa Plants Tested Positive For COVID-19

In this file photo, a worker at a meat processing plant stands side by side other workers.
Courtesy of Oxfam America / file
A worker at a meat processing plant stands close to other workers.

Tyson Foods says 815 workers between two of its western Iowa meat processing facilities have tested positive for COVID-19.
The company said in a statement Tuesday that 591 employees at its Storm Lake pork processing facility have tested positive for COVID-19, about one-quarter of the plant’s workforce. Tyson also released results for its beef and pork facility in Council Bluffs, where 224 employees tested positive for the disease caused by the new coronavirus. That is 15 percent of the Council Bluffs facility’s workforce.

Tyson recently completed facility-wide testing at the two western Iowa plants. The company will resume “limited production” at the Storm Lake pork facility on Wednesday after announcing last Thursday it was pausing production to deep clean and sanitize the facility and wait for employee test results.

Close to one-third of the employees who tested positive have come back to work at the Tyson Storm Lake plant after a required absence. In Council Bluffs, nearly half of the employees who tested positive have returned to work.

In a statement, Pottawattamie County Public Health Director of Planning and Development Matt Wyant said the county is “proud to collaborate” with Tyson to manage the virus.

“Tyson’s preventive policies and procedures at the facility as well as its aggressive testing and containment will help further protect our community and the health of our residents,” Wyant said.

At the Tyson Fresh Meats beef facility in Dakota City, Nebraska, one mile over the Iowa-Nebraska border, Tyson reported 786 “active COVID-19 cases” as of Friday. The facility employs 4,300 workers. Around half of the employees are Iowa residents.

“Tyson has seen substantial improvement at our Dakota City facility since we began large-scale COVID-19 testing efforts in late April, and we are well past the peak of active COVID-19 cases at the facility,” said Tyson spokeswoman Liz Croston in a statement to IPR last Friday.

Tyson resumed two shifts of its operations at the Dakota City plant and the number of employees absent “continues to decrease,” Croston said.

In early May, Tyson closed the Dakota City plant for six days, deep cleaned it and processed the testing data before reopening.

Katie Peikes was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio from 2018 to 2023. She joined IPR as its first-ever Western Iowa reporter, and then served as the agricultural reporter.