Black Hawk County health board requests temporary closure of Waterloo Tyson plant

The Tyson Foods processing plant in Waterloo on Thursday, April 16, 2020. (Brian Tabick/KCRG)
The Tyson Foods processing plant in Waterloo on Thursday, April 16, 2020. (Brian Tabick/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Apr. 21, 2020 at 11:36 AM CDT
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Health officials in Black Hawk County on Tuesday announced they now have at least 374 cases of COVID-19. Of those cases, 182 are related to the Tyson plant in Waterloo.

Because of this, the Black Hawk County Board of Health voted on a proclamation, urging Governor Reynolds and Tyson to temporarily close the plant. Board members want that closure to allow crews to deep clean the facility.

The board of health does not have the power to close the plant. Instead, Governor Reynolds would need to delegate that power to the county, something she's not willing to do at this point.

The proclamation also requests Tyson to implement quarantine and social distancing procedures, and it asks the governor to make enough COVID-19 tests available to test every worker at the plant.

During Tuesday's special meeting, board member Dr. Adam Roise, who is the Medical Director of the Northeast Iowa Family Practice Center in Waterloo wants the governor to review the threshold at which businesses start testing and monitoring employees.

Tyson says it has taken measures to prevent the spread, but Dr. Roise said he has concerns after hearing from patients.

"I hear workers talk about being given pieces of cloth or pieces of plastic not being told what to do with them. I've heard reports of people going to the nurse saying they feel sick, having a fever taken that does not meet the criteria of 100.0, given a Tylenol and being told to go back to the line," he said. "I talked to people yesterday who come in as sick and test COVID positive and say they have not received a single piece of communication from Tyson or anybody else on what they're supposed to do...."

Gov. Reynolds said closing the plant could have a major impact on the food supply and food costs. She said it would also negatively impact the state's hog farmers. She says reducing staff is a more realistic option than closing it altogether.