State officials have confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 among workers at a meat packing plant in Storm Lake.
Iowa Department of Public Health deputy director Sarah Reisetter made the announcement late this morning at the governor’s news conference. “Today, we have confirmed an outbreak at the Tyson pork processing plant in Storm Lake where 555 of the 2517 employees tested have had a positive result so far,” Reisetter said.
The announcement comes 24 hours after state officials said they were not yet able to link a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases in the Storm Lake area to either of the city’s meat plants. Reisetter said state law does not require businesses to report outbreaks to her agency, but information may be publicly released if necessary to protect the health of citizens.
“We’ve determined confirming outbreaks at businesses is only necessary when the employment setting constitutes a high-risk environment for the potential of COVID-19 transmission,” Reisetter said.
According to Reisetter, the state doesn’t have immediate access to testing information when 10 percent of a workforce at a facility like a packing plant tests positive for the virus.
“The Department of Public Health and local public health agencies have provided more information to employers and the public through this COVID-19 pandemic than we’ve ever provided before,” Reisetter said, “because it is a sensitive balance between protecting patient identity and protecting the health of the public.”
Reisetter said while there’s great interest in having her agency announce when there are outbreaks, she says the most important thing for Iowans to know is how to take care of their own health during the pandemic — by wearing a face mask when social distancing isn’t possible, covering coughs and washing hands.