Answers are creating more questions for the Perry community.
Data released on Tuesday by the Iowa Department of Public Health confirmed 730 positive COVID-19 tests at the local Tyson meatpacking plant, 58 percent of the tested employees. The news of the positive COVID-19 tests confirmed what many in the Perry community had come to already believe.
But it was the announcement that caught the city of Perry by surprise Tuesday morning.
Perry City Manager Sven Peterson told Iowa Starting Line that both the city of Perry and Dallas County got the number of confirmed Tyson cases during the Governors’ daily press conference.
“We did not get any information ahead of time,” Peterson said. “That was interesting. We were keeping an eye on what the other plants and their positivity rates had been. We had guessed between 17-40 percent, but almost 60 percent, that’s pretty surprising.”
Digging Into the Data
Complicating the situation even more is that roughly half of the workforce at the Tyson plant live outside of Perry. Knowing workers will be traveling to other neighborhoods, Peterson says the data must be looked at by zip code, not just by county.
“With those numbers, it’s hard to say how many of those live in Perry,” Peterson explains. “But then one of the more frustrating parts is that number is a snapshot of ten days ago. With as rapidly as this situation has evolved, we’re still working to try and get zip code level data to have a better look at what it is we are actually dealing with on a local basis.”
Jorge Soto is a 2015 Perry High School graduate and the organizer of the Call to Action: Protect Tyson Workers Facebook page, said he’s hearing the number of positive tests is actually higher than the 58 percent that was shared.
“It seems to be getting higher,” Soto says. “I’ve gotten many angry messages and some pretty heartbreaking anecdotes about family members being identified of COVID-19 positive. It’s not looking good.”
A task force was created on Monday between city officials and community members to better coordinate responses to the pandemic. Peterson says the task force will release a public service announcement in the coming days with an increased focus on staying home and limiting gatherings to members of the same household.
“We want to keep key stakeholders within the community on the same page and coordinate our efforts with the community,” Peterson says.
Other data released Tuesday included positive COVID-19 tests from other meatpacking and manufacturing plants across the state. In Waterloo, the Tyson plan has 444 confirmed COVID-19 tests (39 percent of employees tested). The Tyson plant in Columbus Junction has 221 positive COVID-19 tests (26 percent of the workforce).
Iowa Premium National Beef in Tama has 258 confirmed COVID-19 cases (39 percent of its workforce). TPI Composites in Newton, a wind turbine manufacturer, has 131 positive tests (13 percent of its workforce).
As of Tuesday night, Dallas County has 613 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Polk County is reporting 1,778 confirmed cases, according to coronavirus.iowa.gov. Iowa has 207 deaths from COVID-19.
by Joey Aguirre
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