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“They owe it to our community to explain why.” Black Hawk Co Board of Health requests Tyson or Governor close Waterloo plant

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) - The Black Hawk County Board of Health has issued a statement to Governor Reynolds and Tyson Foods asking for the plant to be temporarily shut down.

The proclamation passed unanimously Tuesday morning during a special meeting from the county's Board of Health, citing 182 cases stemming from the outbreak at Tyson's Waterloo meatpacking facility.

"Someone has to stand up and take the lead on this and refuse to back down," said Pastor Belinda Creighton-Smith, who said she continues to speak with employees who say the situation is worse than the company says.

Creighton-Smith also concerned that Governor Reynolds statements earlier in the week regarding euthanizing hogs if the supply chain were to be disrupted.

"My concern is that if we don't close this plant down, we will find ourselves with a number of those we love, dead in their homes, or on ventilators dying from this virus," Creighton-Smith said.

The county has seen 3 deaths so far. Neither the county nor Tyson have confirmed if there is any link in those fatalities to the plant, citing privacy laws.

"They owe it to the community to explain why," said Dr. Wes Pilkington, an Evansdale pharmacist on the board.

Despite ongoing denials from Tyson, KWWL and health officials continue to receive concerns about safety. Dr. Adam Roise, a physician on the board, said he continues to hear from patients with those concerns, explaining some told him that they had a fever, were given Tylenol, and then told to return to the production line. Roise also expressed that employees who tested positive claimed to not receive any communication from corporate.

"It just seems like there's a complete lack of communication and this is among people who speak English as a first language. I can't imagine what it is for those for those workers who don't understand English," Dr. Roise said.

The board also questioned why the Waterloo plant remained open when other Tyson facilities like ones in Columbus Junction and Perry both closed temporarily for some amount of time.

"That's a very good question, and I am still trying to figure out that question," said Dr. Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye, the Black Hawk County Public Health Director.

We reached out to Tyson to get an answer on that question and for any updates regarding the Waterloo plant.

Workplace safety continues to be top priority for us and we are monitoring a variety of factors closely as this situation continues to evolve and change.

Liz Croston, Tyson Spokesperson

The board announced that as of Tuesday morning, Black Hawk County has 374 positive COVID-19 cases, with 182 cases from Tyson.

Read the full proclamation here:

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