Amid coronavirus outbreak, Tyson Foods closes its largest pork plant

Tyson Foods on Wednesday announced that it will close its Waterloo, Iowa, pork plant — the company’s largest — due to the coronavirus quickly spreading through its employee ranks.

The plant employs 2,800 workers, and they will continue to receive pay during the closure. There are 374 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Black Hawk County, and local health officials have linked 182 of those cases to the Waterloo plant. Tyson said later this week, all employees will get tested for COVID-19, and that will help them decide when to reopen the plant.

Last week, Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart called on Tyson to shutter the facility, and on Wednesday he told CNN the closure will “prove to be a positive step forward in preparing our community for flattening the curve.” Many of the workers are people of color, he added, and do not have the luxury of working from home. “It hurts when it feels like your pleas to people fall on deaf ears,” Hart said. “This isn’t a political issue. … It’s a humanitarian issue.”

The plant shutting down affects people on the outside as well, Steve Stouffer, president of the Tyson Fresh Meats group, said in a statement. The facility is “part of a larger supply chain that includes hundreds of independent farmers, truckers, distributors, and customers, including grocers,” he said. “The closure has significant ramifications beyond our company.”

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