The mayor of a western Iowa city that’s home to two packing plants is asking state officials to establish a “Test Iowa” site in her community.
“I remain very concerned and I have been concerned for weeks, knowing that plants are hot spots and have been historically hot spots in the past month,” said Denison Mayor Pam Soseman.
On Tuesday, State officials confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks at packing plants in Perry, Waterloo, Tama and Columbus Junction. Smithfield operates a pork plant in Denison, with about 1250 hourly workers. A few hundred others work at the Quality Meats plant in Denison. Denison is in Crawford County and the latest state report shows there are now 103 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Crawford County.
“I am very concerned about those numbers,” Soseman said. “We keep communicating with our state representatives and our governor.”
National data indicates meat packing has more foreign-born workers than any other industry in the country. Soseman is worried the Test Iowa app that screens people for testing may not be understandable to all the packing plant workers in Denison.
“With 26 languages spoken in our high school, that is a deep concern of mine,” she said. “I also have a concern with those who may not have access to a computer to be able to sign up online, so I’m asking for those who can help to communicate this to people who may be in danger or at risk, to communicate with those people anda assist them with that website.”
Last month state officials sent test kits to Columbus Junction and Waterloo after concerns that dozens of workers had contracted COVID-19 and the virus was spreading in the community. The state has also sent what Reynolds calls “strike teams” to test nursing home employees in areas where outbreaks have been identified in long term care facilities.
(Reporting by Tanner Bickford, KDSN, Denison; additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)