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Gov. won't close Waterloo Tyson plant; Black Hawk County records 2nd death

Gov. won't close Waterloo Tyson plant; Black Hawk County records 2nd death

From the Coronavirus update Northeast Iowa series

DES MOINES -- Despite employee fears of scant worker protections and officials' calls to temporarily shutter Tyson Fresh Meats in Waterloo, the governor said Monday she has no plans to order Tyson to close, saying it was important to keep businesses in the food supply chain up and running.

Also, Black Hawk County recorded a second death over the weekend, a middle-aged adult between the ages of 41 and 60. The virus has so far infected 259 in Black Hawk County and caused two deaths.

Gov. Kim Reynolds faced a barrage of questions at Monday's coronavirus briefing about the Waterloo plant and meatpacking facilities across the state.

She acknowledged meatpacking workers were uniquely susceptible to the virus. At Iowa Premium in Tama, 177 out of more than 500 workers tested positive for coronavirus. The facility had been shuttered since April 10, but reopened Monday.

"We will continue to see clusters of positive cases in these facilities because COVID-19 spreads easily and quickly, and once it is introduced it is very hard to contain," Reynolds said. "But without them, our food supply will be impacted. We're doing our part to keep them open in a responsible way."

Reynolds announced 257 new coronavirus cases statewide on Monday, including four new deaths.

That brings the statewide total cases to 3,159, or 0.1% of the state's total population. Of those, 1,235, or 39%, have recovered.

Another 214 were currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 91 of those in intensive care units and 58 on ventilators across the state.

A total of 79 Iowans have died of the virus, 48% of them living in long-term care facilities, the governor announced.

Black Hawk County health officials said last week they were breaking with the state in naming an official outbreak of coronavirus inside Tyson in Waterloo.

Twenty elected officials, including mayors and legislators, have called on the company to temporarily close its facility for deep cleaning and to allow for coronavirus testing to catch up.

Tyson has so far refused calls to voluntarily close the plant, and county officials have said Reynolds is the only person legally able to order them to close.

Tyson's plant in Columbus Junction remained closed Monday, and it idled its plant in Perry for a one-day cleaning Monday. Iowa Premium in Tama reopened Monday.

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