Tyson Foods is voluntarily closing its Storm Lake, Iowa plant after approximately 22% of the plant’s employees tested positive for COVID-19. The plant processes about 17,250 hogs per day. Harvesting animals and finish processing was expected to be wrapped up by this weekend.
The company said the closure is “due in part to a delay in COVID-19 testing results and team member absences related to quarantine and other factors.”
Deep cleaning and sanitizing of the entire facility will be conducted before resuming operations later next week, the company said, adding that it is working closely with local health officials after completing testing of team members and contractors at the plant.
Tyson said it will share verified test results, once complete data is available, with health and government officials, team members, and other stakeholders as part of its efforts to help communities where it operates better understand the coronavirus and the protective measures that can be taken to help prevent its spread.
Further, once operations resume, team members at Tyson’s Storm Lake facility will continue to have access to additional testing, daily clinical symptom screenings, nurse practitioners and enhanced education through Matrix Medical which has a mobile unit onsite.
A spokesperson for the Iowa Department of Public Health relayed during a press conference Thursday that 555 employees tested positive among its 2,517 employees.
Despite the closure announcement, Jayson Lusk, professor and department head in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University, reported this week that appears the worst of the COVID-related disruptions to meat and livestock markets may be over.
“The worst of the disruptions occurred in late April and early May when we were running about 40% below last year, but significant improvements have been made since then.”
He relayed that beef and pork are mainly back online but running at a reduced capacity of about 10-15% below last year due to social distancing of workers, etc. Chicken processing, on the other hand, hasn’t deviated more than plus or minus 10% from last year at any point during this period, Lusk said.