Virus Outbreak Concerns Rise In, Around Sioux City

By Nikoel Hytrek
April 20, 2020

Coronavirus doesn’t respect borders, and that could soon become a problem for Western Iowa.

Right now, Iowa’s main coronavirus hot spots are on the eastern side of the state. There the population is highest and has more virus epicenters — meatpacking plants and long-term care facilities. The western half of the state has been spared the brunt of the virus so far, but there’s concerns that situation may not last for long.

According to Siouxland District Health, Woodbury County’s total cases jumped by 32 today, which hasn’t been included in the IDPH totals yet. There’s now 75 total confirmed positives cases in the county. Late last week, there was at least one confirmed case at Sioux City’s Seaboard Triumph Foods meatpacking plant.

No deaths have been reported, and the surrounding counties on the Iowa side have smaller numbers of cases if any.

But the Nebraska side of the river is a different story.

Dakota County, directly across the river from Sioux City and home to a Tyson Fresh Foods plant, has reported 66 cases, a sharp increase since reporting its first case about a week ago. The plant has confirmed that some employees have tested positive, but has not disclosed how many. Many who work there live in Woodbury County.

The Sioux City Journal reported that one county commissioner had heard that there were 450 people who didn’t show up to work recently at the plant out of fear of the virus.

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Most of Iowa’s recent outbreaks and reported cases have come from meatpacking plants. Over the weekend, Iowa reported hundreds more cases of the coronavirus and Gov. Kim Reynolds confirmed today that 261 of the 389 reported yesterday were from the Tyson and National Beef plants in Eastern Iowa.

In the northern part of the state, many people who live in Lyon County work across the border in South Dakota.

Minnehaha County, where Sioux Falls, a Smithfield Foods plant and most of South Dakota’s cases are, is just north of the Iowa border. As of Monday morning, 1,405 positive cases have been found there.

Lincoln County, South Dakota has the second highest number of cases in South Dakota with 95; it also borders Iowa.

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So far, Lyon County has five confirmed cases of coronavirus and zero deaths.

Pottawattamie County in Southwest Iowa, which includes Council Bluffs, has 18 cases and one death, according to the IDPH. The county is right across the river from Omaha (and Douglas County), the site of the second-highest number of cases. Though their confirmed cases remain low, two employees of the Council Bluffs Tyson plant have test positive. Both, however, live in Nebraska’s Douglas County.

 

by Nikoel Hytrek
Posted 4/20/20

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  • Nikoel Hytrek

    Nikoel Hytrek is Iowa Starting Line’s longest-serving reporter. She covers LGBTQ issues, abortion rights and all topics of interest to Iowans. Her biggest goal is to help connect the dots between policy and people’s real lives. If you have story ideas or tips, send them over to [email protected].

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