With 107 New Cases, Black Hawk Co BOH Calls For Tyson Shutdown

Photo by Emily Ross

With another spike in local cases today, the Black Hawk County Board of Health voted on a proclamation urging Gov. Kim Reynolds and Tyson to temporarily close the plant.

This morning, the state reported 107 new cases in Black Hawk County for a total of 366.

The proclamation points out that Tyson and other companies like Smithfield and National Beef have closed other facilities in Iowa and surrounding states over coronavirus outbreaks.

“The Black Hawk County Board of Health hereby requests and implores Tyson Foods, Inc., to voluntarily and temporarily close its Waterloo plant to allow for necessary cleaning, testing of employees, and implementation of measures to combat the spread of infection at the plant,” the proclamation states.

It also asks that the company implement proper quarantine and social distancing measures.

The Board of Health requests the same from Reynolds and the Iowa Department of Health, if Tyson doesn’t close temporarily.

It also asks that the two entities order Tyson to clean the facility, make PPE available, put up barriers in the workplace, conduct contact tracing and to “condition the reopening of Tyson Waterloo on the completion of these measures, including the results of COVID-19 testing of Tyson Waterloo employees.”

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Reynolds has said multiple times that she and the IDPH have had conversations with businesses and been assured that they’re taking every precaution with their workforces.

And yet, cases that can be traced back to these facilities continue to climb. According to KCRG, 182 of the newest cases in Black Hawk County are related to the Tyson plant in Waterloo.

The Black Hawk County officials also request more testing for the county because of the amount of spread there.

Last week, officials in the county sent a letter to Tyson requesting the company temporarily close the Waterloo plant. This proclamation is firmer.

It goes on to request more from the state government, too, like disclosure of how the state is monitoring meatpacking plants’ compliance with calls to increase mitigation strategies like regular cleaning and the use of masks.

Notably, it asks the state to lower the threshold at which businesses take action to “evidence of employee-to-employee transmission” rather than its current standard of “10 percent of employee base testing positive or being absent from work.”

The county officials can’t order the closure of the plant unless Reynolds gives them the authority, which she has not done yet.

In the proclamation, the Board of Health acknowledges that COVID-19 disproportionately affects low income, minority and immigrant communities — on the national and state levels — and points out that those demographics make up most of the Tyson plant’s workforce.

The officials note that Tyson is an essential business and significant employer, but temporarily shutting its doors is the way to control the amount of spread in the community and prevent more significant disruptions in the future.

“Continued operation of Tyson Waterloo in its current condition will exacerbate – rapidly – the infection of its employees, their households, and the communities in which they reside,” the proclamation states.


by Nikoel Hytrek
Posted 4/21/20

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