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Tyson will close its biggest pork plant after workers call out sick with coronavirus


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(CNN) — Tyson Foods is closing its largest pork plant as a growing number of workers become ill from coronavirus infections.

The plant, located in Waterloo, Iowa, had already slowed production because many of its 2,800 workers had been calling out sick. The Black Hawk County health department linked the Tyson plant to 182 of the county’s 374 Covid-19 cases. Last week, Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart called for the Tyson facility to be shut down.

Those were all factors in Tyson’s decision Wednesday to indefinitely stop production at the Waterloo facility this week. The company will continue paying its employees while the facility is closed, and the plant’s 2,800 staff members will be invited to take Covid-19 tests later this week. The plant’s reopening will depend on a number of factors, including the outcome of the tests, the company said.

“Despite our continued efforts to keep our people safe while fulfilling our critical role of feeding American families, the combination of worker absenteeism, Covid-19 cases and community concerns has resulted in our decision to stop production,” Tyson Fresh Meats group president Steve Stouffer said in a statement.

Stouffer acknowledged that the plant’s closure may add to the current disruption of the nation’s pork supply chain, adding that the facility is “part of a larger supply chain that includes hundreds of independent farmers, truckers, distributors and customers, including grocers.”

“The closure has significant ramifications beyond our company,” he said.

Mayor Hart voiced approval of the move during a Wednesday morning interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow, arguing the closure was necessary to potentially save lives.

“This is the action we have been waiting for,” Hart said in a statement emailed to CNN Business. “Tyson’s closing their plant will prove to be a positive step forward in preparing our community for the flattening the curve.”