Columbus Junction

Tyson Foods temporarily closed its Columbus Junction, Iowa, pork processing plant April 6.

This was necessitated due to over two dozen cases of COVID-19 reported at the eastern Iowa plant. Tyson officials expect the closure to last one week.

“Our meat and poultry plants are experiencing varying levels of production impact due to the planned implementation of additional worker safety precautions and worker absenteeism,” Tyson CEO Noel White said in a news release.

“For example, out of an abundance of caution, we have suspended operations at our Columbus Junction, Iowa, pork plant this week due to more than two dozen cases of COVID-19 involving team members at the facility. In an effort to minimize the impact on our overall production, we’re diverting the livestock supply originally scheduled for delivery to Columbus Junction to some of our other pork plants in the region.

White says the company has been proactive in other areas, including closely monitoring employee health prior to shifts.

“We’ve been taking the temperature of workers at all of our locations before they enter company facilities,” he said. “We’re mostly using temporal thermometers but at a few locations we’re beginning to implement infrared temperature scanners.

“In addition, we’ve stepped up deep cleaning and sanitizing of our facilities, especially in employee breakrooms, locker rooms and other areas, to protect our team members. This additional cleaning sometimes requires suspending at least one day of production.”

White says the company is looking at implementing different methods of social distancing. He said these include dividers between work stations or increasing the space between workers on the production floor, which can involve slowing production lines at the plant.