Workers at the Prestage pork processing plant in Eagle Grove have tested positive for COVID-19 according to officials. Sixteen workers, all from Black Hawk County where where other meat processing cases have occurred, have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Officials with Prestage Foods contacted county health officials saying that they had 62 employees who made the daily trip from Black Hawk County to the Wright County facility. Officials wanted to be proactive in case the virus was able to make it’s way into Wright County and the processing plant.
Per the Iowa Department of Public Health on Friday, all 62 employees from Black Hawk County were tested over a two day period. sixteen of the 62 employees tested were found to be positive and asymptomatic. Now all 950 employees at the plant are being tested.
In a press conference heard Monday morning on KIOW, Governor Kim Reynolds said that she continues to work closely with packing plants in the state to make sure that the nations food supply chain is not disrupted. Reynolds also pointed out that the Iowa pork industry is the largest in the nation. As such, workers at the plant are essential and the packing plants cannot be shut down for an indefinite period.
Reynolds has not called for shutting down the plant. She has called out the Iowa National Guard to help deliver testing equipment to the affected packing plants. They will also transport kits to the testing labs and potentially help clean inside the packing facilities. Employees at the Eagle Grove plant will continue to be closely monitored and sent home if coronavirus symptoms develop.
Reynolds cited that one of the reasons she refuses to call for a closure of the plants is because Iowa provides a third of the nation’s pork supply. If the supply chain is stopped, pork producers will have to begin euthanizing hogs, “…something we are very close to doing right now.”