SPRINGDALE, ARK. – Tyson Fresh Meats Inc., the beef and pork subsidiary of Tyson Foods Inc. announced April 22 that its Logansport, Ind., facility, which produces 3 million lbs of pork daily, will close while its more than 2,200 employees undergo COVID-19 testing. The Cass County Health Department is working with the company to conduct the testing.
“While we understand the necessity of keeping our facilities operational so that we can continue to feed the nation, the safety of our team members remains our top priority,” said Steve Stouffer, group president of Tyson Fresh Meats. “Our company is deeply embedded in our plant communities, including Logansport. We’re working with the county to make sure our people and the community are safe. The combination of worker absenteeism, COVID-19 cases and community concerns has resulted in a collective decision to close.”
The plant suspended processing operations for one day on April 20 to undergo additional deep cleaning and sanitizing. Since then, the plant has been running at limited production. The plant will stop processing fully on or before April 25. All Logansport employees will continue to be paid while the plant is shut down.
The company is unable to announce when the plant will resume operations, it will depend on the results of the COVID-19 testing, the company said. Tyson is working with the health department to come up with a plan to reopen.
“We’re pleased with Tyson’s collaboration to protect our community,” said Dr. Dori Ditty, health officer of Cass County Health Department. “Tyson Fresh Meats is an economic anchor for our community and is critical for the food supply. We want to get the facility back up and running as safely and quickly as possible, which is why we’ve both decided to close the facility in order to test all employees.
“We’re aware that while employees are practicing protective measures at work, they may not be practicing it at home which is critical to help stop overall community spread. Tyson has done its part in implementing measures and are now working with us to test workers. We’re making a clear commitment to do our part to mitigate the spread within the community by reinforcing CDC guidelines in our county.”
Tyson also announced on April 22 its plans to indefinitely suspend operations at its largest pork processing plant, located in Waterloo, Iowa. The plant, which employs 2,800 people, had previously decreased production in the face of increasing absenteeism rates and will stop production until further notice beginning mid-week, according to the company.
“Closing facilities has serious implications to the national food supply for American families, local communities, growers and farmers,” Stouffer said. “When a facility closes, the availability of protein for consumers across the nation will only decrease. Consumers will see an impact at the grocery store as production slows. It also means the loss of a vital market outlet for farmers and contributes to the disruption of the nation’s pork supply.”
Tyson Foods formed a coronavirus task force in January to develop plans to prepare for the possibilities resulting from the spread of the virus. Since then, it has implemented numerous measures to protect workers. It was one of the first food companies to start taking worker temperatures and is in the process of installing more than 150 infrared temperature scanners in its facilities, the company said.
The company also requires face coverings be worn by all employees and to promote social distancing, many company facilities have installed workstation dividers and are providing more breakroom space.