(Updated June 10, 2020) | Nearly 900 people who work at a Tyson Food’s pork processing plant in Logansport, Indiana, have tested positive for coronavirus. That’s 40 percent of the plant’s workforce.
Like many other meat processing plants across the country, the facility is currently closed due to the pandemic. Tyson Foods was also forced to close its largest pork factory, in Waterloo, Iowa, earlier this month.
Following President Donald Trump’s recent order for plants to stay open, the meat giant is now working with Cass County officials to come up with a plan to get the Logansport plant operating again as soon as possible.
The plant employs 2,200 people; 890 of which are currently confirmed to have coronavirus. This makes up most of the confirmed cases in Cass County, which health officials state currently has just under 1,200.
The number will continue to climb, Cass County health department administrator Serenity Alter told Wish TV. “We were in good shape for a couple of weeks,” she said. “Then just within a couple of weeks, it kind of blew up.”
As of May, more than 4,500 Tyson workers in 15 states have been diagnosed with COVID-19. At least 18 have died, reports Business Insider.
Meat Processing Plants and Coronavirus
Conditions within meat processing plants are ideal for spreading viruses. This was made clear in a recent lawsuit brought against another pork producer, Smithfield.
The lawsuit states that workers must stand nearly shoulder to shoulder. Hygiene is difficult, as workers are not able to frequently wash their hands.
Some Smithfield workers state they cannot even lift their hands to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, for fear of missing a piece of meat when it goes by. Missing a piece of meat could result in disciplinary action.
Tyson Foods told News 8 it has been screening worker temperatures, requiring face coverings, and conducting additional cleaning. It also said it has implemented social distancing measures.
Logansport isn’t Tyson Food’s only meat processing plant in Cass County. There are two more, just a 30-minute drive away. According to Wish TV, there are households that have people working in more than one plant.
The Governor of Indiana Eric Holcomb is expected to soon layout plans to start reopening the state. Cass County is not ready, says Alter. “With our numbers increasing the way they are, hopefully, we will not be one of those regions just quite yet,” she said.