Tyson Foods (NYSE:TSN) has already closed one of its slaughterhouse and meatpacking facilities in Iowa in response to coronavirus cases there, but now Iowa politicians are filing an OSHA complaint against the second, demanding its temporary closure. The news comes as dozens of new COVID-19 cases erupt at Tyson facilities in Tennessee and Nebraska, hitting crucial parts of America's food supply network as the pandemic continues.
Tyson already shuttered its Columbus Junction pig slaughterhouse, responsible for about 2% of total U.S. pork production, for two weeks in response to a cluster of coronavirus infections there. Privately held National Beef also closed its plant in Tama, Iowa, for two weeks after 177 workers tested positive for the coronavirus. The plant reopened this morning.
Three state lawmakers claim "multiple" violations of Operational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards at Tyson's plant in Waterloo, Iowa, located in Black Hawk County. The call came as the Iowa governor's office issued statistics indicating 67% of new state COVID-19 cases were linked to Tyson and National Beef facilities. Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson also urged temporary closure, declaring, "My personal opinion is that it should be closed ... I think we need to deep-clean that facility and I think we need to restart that plant on a clean slate."
Tyson has so far declined to idle the Waterloo facility despite the pressure mounting on it to do so. The events in Iowa are playing out at the same time 97 chicken plant workers tested positive for coronavirus in Tennessee, six cases emerged in a Nebraska facility, and three chicken slaughterhouse workers died in Georgia from COVID-19, all at Tyson locations.