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UPDATE: Tyson Foods responds to Black Hawk County letter calling for temporary shutdown

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) -- Tyson Foods responded to KWWL's request for comment regarding a letter from several Black Hawk County leaders asking for a temporary shutdown at the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Waterloo.

The company says in part they "have been successfully collaborating with leaders in other plant communities in addressing COVID-19 concerns."

In terms to the letter specifically, a spokesperson acknowledged they were reviewing it but were disappointed that it was distributed to media at the same time it was delivered to them.

County officials say Tyson acknowledged receiving the letter Friday morning after county leaders sent it on Thursday afternoon. Various media outlets were present Friday afternoon where the letter was announced and read during a county news conference.

You can read Tyson's full response here:

We’re working diligently to keep our team members across the country safe and have been successfully collaborating with leaders in other plant communities in addressing COVID-19 concerns.

We’ve been working with local, state and federal officials and are following CDC guidelines. Our primary focus is protecting our people while continuing to fulfill our critical role of feeding families in this community and around the nation, while providing market continuity for hundreds of area hog farmers.

Our workplace safety efforts are strictly enforced and include checking worker temperatures, requiring and providing face coverings and initiating additional cleaning. We’ve implemented social distancing measures, providing more breakroom space and installing workstation dividers. We have and continue to educate our team members on the importance of following CDC guidelines at work and at home and have instructed them to stay at home when they’re feeling sick.

Yes, we received the letter and are currently reviewing it. We were disappointed the letter was sent to media at the same time it was being delivered to us.

Tyson Foods Spokesperson

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) -- Black Hawk County elected officials are asking the Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo to "voluntarily cease operations on a temporary basis."

The request for a pause in operations was announced by Supervisor Chris Schwartz at the Black Hawk County press conference. Schwartz said it is to allow for appropriate cleaning and mitigation strategies to take place.

"We ask that you voluntarily cease operations, on a temporary basis, at your Waterloo facility so appropriate cleaning and mitigation strategies can take place," Schwartz said.

Officials are asking that the plant take this step to allow for test results to catch up and data to be collected.

A letter was sent to Tyson yesterday afternoon, and Schwarz said they acknowledged they received it. Friday, before the letter was announced to the public, Tyson officials told a KWWL reporter that the plant would remain open as of now.

Governor Reynolds announced today that the state of Iowa is sending 2,700 tests to the Tyson Plant in Waterloo. They are working on testing all workers at the Tyson Foods plants in Columbus Junction and Waterloo, as well as contact tracing.

Senator Bill Dotzler challenged Reynolds on her hesitancy to take further action, saying she cited the need for more federal guidance Friday.

"What kind of federal guidance, do we need? I mean what new thing can be said to protect workers, you have to be living under a rock that not understand what how this virus is transmitted and what a dangerous situation those workers are in," Dotzler said.

The officials ask that Tyson fully participates with the state in the testing operation. Representative Ras Smith said he feared for minority workers at the plant, citing national data that they were more susceptible for complications from the virus.

"I've been a manager in the warehouse before, and I know if leadership really wants to know about employee safety, you speak with employees. I've done this and some of the things that I've read, some of the stories that I've heard, break my heart, even if they're only half true," Smith said.

Schwartz made it clear the elected officials are asking and suggesting for cooperation from the plant.

Read the full letter here:

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Andrew Pearce

Social Media & Digital Content Manager

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