Governor Kim Reynolds has asked federal officials to send new COVID-19 testing machines that produce results in minutes to the state’s meat packing plants — so employees can be screened.
“We understand they are part of the food chain, an essential workforce,” Reynolds said late this morning at her daily news conference.
Abbott, a company based in Illinois, developed new COVID-19 rapid test kits and machines and began distribution in the U.S. last week. After a question about food safety at today’s news conference, Iowa’s governor told reporters she has been speaking with the CEOs of Iowa packing plants.
“They are always taking precautions and now extra precautions to make sure that the food supply chain is safe,” Reynolds said.
Employees at the pork processing plant in Columbus Junction and the beef processing plant in Tama have tested positive for COVID-19 and both plants temporarily shut down for deep cleaning. Reynolds said state officials have recommended packing plant managers take several steps in the midst of this pandemic — like taking the temperature of all employees before every shift, to screen out those who may have a fever.
“Making sure that their employees know that if they’re sick, stay home. If anybody in their household is sick, to stay home,” Reynolds said. “If they’re experiencing any of the symptoms (of COVID-19) to call the doctor, go through the assessment.”
Tyson and other companies have announced they’ve been checking employees’ temperatures and using face masks inside packing plants. Some people who have COVID-19 show no symptoms but can transmit the virus. Reynolds said the new Abbott rapid tests would be of great benefit to the meat packing industry, “so that we can start to get a handle on who is sick, who is not and then talk about how we stand up a workforce to continue to keep that food supply chain moving.”
Reynolds today reported another 102 positive cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Iowa — for a total of 1048 cases. Health care workers account for between 22 and 23 percent of all positive COVID-19 cases in Iowa. Twenty-six Iowans have died of the disease and cases of the virus have been confirmed in 78 of the state’s 99 counties.