Tyson Foods Closes Third Plant This Week After Workers Test Positive For Coronavirus

A Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Pasco, Washington is the latest Tyson Foods meat processing facility to close after employees tested positive for COVID-19. It joins the company's largest plant in Waterloo, Iowa and another in Logansport, Indiana in closing despite the company's stated attempts to implement social distancing measures at the facilities.

The plant in Waterloo has been connected to at least 180 COVID-19 cases in the state, according to the Associated Press. A report by the AP, published Wednesday, said the plant was closing temporarily in response to pressure from the community and concern among its employees, many of whom were staying home out of fear of contracting the virus due to difficulties of following social distancing guidelines in the workplace.

"This is the action we have been waiting for in response to the Tyson plant closing," the City of Waterloo said in a tweet Wednesday. "We must do everything we can to make sure testing and support are in place and personal precautions are maintained."

Two states away, Tyson announced it was also temporarily closing its plant in Logansport, Indiana. Newsweek confirmed at least 15 employees at the plant had tested positive for COVID-19, triggering a brief shutdown Monday so the facility could be disinfected.

On the West Coast, word of the company's decision to close its Pasco plant spread Thursday as Tyson officials said they planned to test all employees for the virus. More than 1,400 people work at the Pasco facility, all of whom would be compensated and encouraged to self-isolate until their test results are confirmed, Tyson said in a news release.

Tyson Foods
Tyson's largest meat processing plant in Iowa was planning to close Wednesday as several of its employees tested positive for COVID-19. Two states away, another of its plants was also ordered to close by Cass County officials in Indiana. Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images

Tyson said on its corporate website it has implemented at least 150 temperature scanners at four of its facilities, including unspecified plants in Iowa and Indiana. The company also said it was providing employees with masks and encouraging social distancing in areas where employees typically work in close quarters through the use of dividers and hands-free door operators.

Information Tyson shared with Newsweek said testing would be available to its more than 2,200 Logansport employees starting Thursday. The company said the plant has been decreasing its daily operations throughout the week and would close by Saturday.

Tyson said in a news release its decision to close the Logansport plant was made in collaboration with the Cass County Health Department. In a nod to the economic impact of the plant's temporary closure, County Health Officer Dr. Dori Ditty said the company was working with the health department to begin employee testing. "We want to get the facility back up and running as safely and quickly as possible, which is why we've both decided to close the facility in order to test all employees," Ditty said in the news release.

The Cass County Health Department did not respond to Newsweek's request for comment in time for publication.

News of the Tyson Foods plant closures came less than two weeks after the Smithfield meat processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, said it would temporarily close. At that time, Smithfield was identified as one of the biggest coronavirus hot spots in the United States with more than 700 cases tied to the plant.

The close quarters in which facility workers operate paired with their roles as essential workers contributing to the country's food supply has drawn concern from consumers across the country. Though the U.S. Department of Agriculture has said worrying over the food supply is unnecessary, the rising number of plants impacted as the virus spreads continues to fuel concern.

Tyson said in a news release Thursday its plant in Pasco alone is capable of producing the meat needed to feed four million people every day.