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Tyson Foods suspends Columbus Junction plant after COVID-19 outbreak

This Wednesday, April 17, 2013 photo shows the Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Columbus...
This Wednesday, April 17, 2013 photo shows the Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)(KCRG)
Published: Apr. 6, 2020 at 4:18 PM CDT
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Tyson Foods said Monday that it has suspended operations at a major pork processing plant in southeastern Iowa where more than two dozen workers have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Spokesman Gary Mickelson said the suspension went into effect on Monday at the plant in Columbus Junction. He said it will last for the duration of this week and be revisited at that point.

Mickelson said the plant's 1,400 workers would continue to be paid this week despite the furlough.

"We continue to explore and implement additional ways to promote more social distancing in our plants. This includes erecting dividers between workstations or increasing the space between workers on the production floor, which can involve slowing production lines," Noel White, Tyson Foods CEO, said, in a statement. "We’re also creating more room in non-production areas. For example, at some locations, we’ve set up tents to create outdoor break rooms."

Mickelson said the company was diverting livestock shipments that were scheduled to be delivered to Columbus Junction to other plants in the region, such as Waterloo and Perry.