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Tyson Foods to indefinitely suspend Waterloo operations

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UPDATE (4/22 11:15 a.m.) -- Before Tyson can shut down its Waterloo plant, it needs to process already harvested hogs, which will be the facility's focus Wednesday.

The plant said the timing of the closure will depend on how quickly it can get through processing.

New hogs have not been harvested since last weekend, according to Tyson.

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) -- Tyson Fresh Meats is indefinitely suspending operations at its Waterloo pork plant this week.

Tyson Foods made the announcement Wednesday.

The facility, which is the company's largest pork plant, has been running at reduced levels of production because workers have been absent, according to Tyson Foods.

In a news release sent to the KWWL newsroom, Tyson said it will stop production mid-week until further notice.

The facility's 2,800 workers will be invited to go to the plant later this week for COVID-19 testing.

Group president of Tyson Fresh Meats, Steve Stouffer, released a statement:

"Protecting our team members is our top priority and the reason we've implemented numerous safety measures during this challenging and unprecedented time. 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. The closure has significant ramifications beyond our company, since the plant is part of a larger supply chain that includes hundreds of independent farmers, truckers, distributors and customers, including grocers. It means the loss of a vital market outlet for farmers and further contributes to the disruption of the nation’s pork supply."

According to Tyson, Waterloo workers who have been affected will continue to be compensated while the plant is closed.

Re-opening the facility will depend on different factors, including the outcome of employee COVID-19 testing.

Tyson said its other meat and poultry plants currently continue to operate, but some are running at reduced levels of production due to "the planned implementation of additional worker safety precautions or worker absenteeism."

Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart applauded the move to close the Waterloo Tyson plant.

Moments after the company made the announcement Wednesday morning, Mayor Hart said, "This is the action we have been waiting for. Now we must do all we can to make sure testing, and support are in place and personal precautions maintained. The virus is here, we must do all we can to contain it."

This is a developing story. Stay with KWWL on-air and online as we work to learn more information.

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Olivia Schmitt

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