Another meat processing plant reports cases of COVID-19, as Iowa’s total number of cases reaches 2,513

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Map of COVID-19 cases, published by IDPH on April 18, 2020.

For the second day in a row, the Iowa Department of Public Health announced almost 200 new cases of COVID-19 in the state. On Friday, IDPH reported 191 new cases. On Saturday, it confirmed another 181 Iowans had tested positive, bringing the number of confirmed cases in Iowa to 2,513.

Cases of COVID-19 were reported at another of the state’s 18 meat processing plants on Friday. Tyson Foods said employees at its pork processing plant in Perry, Dallas County, have tested positive for the virus. Tyson is refusing to say how many employees tested positive.

In a statement, Tyson said it was not providing the number of cases at the plant, which the state gave $674,000 in financial incentives in 2018, to protect the “privacy out of our team members.”

The company did not, however, explain how disclosing the overall number of infected workers would violate the privacy of those people.

In addition to an outbreak of COVID-19 at the National Beef processing plant in Tama County, cases of the virus have been reported at the Tyson plants in Louisa County and Black Hawk County.

The outbreak at the Tyson plant has been directly linked to almost 200 confirmed cases of the virus, Gov. Reynolds said last week. On Wednesday, Tyson announced two of the plant’s workers had died from COVID-19.

The outbreak at the Tyson plant in Waterloo in Black Hawk County is responsible for at least 138 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one death from the virus so far. Twenty elected leaders in Black Hawk County, including the mayor of Waterloo, sent a letter to Tyson asking the company to close the plant temporarily “to ensure the safety and well-beings of Tyson’s valuable employees and our community.”

Tyson has so far rejected calls to close the Waterloo plant. The company has temporarily closed the Columbus Junction plant to conduct extensive cleaning, and National Beef has done the same at its Tama plant.

At her press conference on Friday, Gov. Reynolds was asked how severe an outbreak would have to be at a meat processing plant before the state would order the plant to shut down.

“Our goal is to hope that we don’t” have to shut down a plant, Reynolds said, not answering the question. The governor then turned the podium over to IDPH Deputy Director Sarah Reisetter.

Reisetter’s reply didn’t answer the question either.

Reynolds was also asked on Friday if she had spoken to groups representing workers at the state’s meat processing plants.

“I’ve really focused on the HR or the plant managers, so that we can understand what the needs are,” the governor said.

Among the 181 new cases of COVID-19 IDPH reported on Saturday were 19 residents of Johnson County and 28 residents of Linn County.

• Allamakee: 7

• Black Hawk: 28

• Bremer: 3

• Cedar: 2

• Clay: 1

• Clinton: 1

• Dallas: 1

• Dubuque: 3

• Guthrie: 1

• Hardin: 1

• Henry: 1

• Howard: 2

• Iowa: 2

• Jasper: 5

• Johnson: 19

• Jones: 1

• Keokuk: 2

• Linn: 28

• Louisa: 8

• Marion: 1

• Marshall: 8

• Muscatine: 13

• Osceola: 1

• Plymouth: 2

• Polk: 16

• Poweshiek: 1

• Scott: 4

• Tama: 2

• Wapello: 1

• Warren: 1

• Washington: 4

• Webster: 1

• Woodbury: 10

IDPH also reported on Saturday that 10 more Iowans have died from COVID-19, including three residents of Linn County. Two of the deceased from Linn County were over the age of 80, and the other was between ages of 41 and 60.

One of the other newly reported deaths was of a person between the ages of 41 and 60, four were of people between 61 and 80, and two were of people over the age of 80.

• Appanoose County: 1 (61-80 years)

• Linn County: 1 (41-60 years), 2 (81+)

• Louisa County: 1 (61-80 years)

• Muscatine County: 1 (81+)

• Polk County: 1 (81+), 2 (61-80 years)

• Tama County: 1 (41-60 years)

According to IDPH, 74 residents of Iowa have died from COVID-19 so far.

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