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President orders meat plants to stay open, but will they?

Two major plants in Indiana
Tyson Foods Logansport.JPG
Posted at 5:09 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-29 17:09:37-04

LOGANSPORT -- President Donald Trump is ordering U.S. meat plants to stay open as many face COVID-19 concerns.

The executive order from the White House says the plants are "critical infrastructure" and closures disrupt the nation's food supply. "Such closures, threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain, undermining critical infrastructure during the national emergency," the order reads.

But how can a plant reopen if much of its workforce has tested positive for COVID-19?

Northwest of Indianapolis, that's the issue facing the Tyson Foods plant in Logansport, which is currently closed. All 2,200 employees have been tested for COVID-19. As a result, the number of confirmed virus cases in Cass County skyrocketed to 1,125. The vast majority of those cases involve Tyson workers.

When problems became known last week, Tyson closed the plant and indicated it might reopen in two weeks.

But can Tyson meet the president's order? The company, when contacted by WRTV on Wednesday, would not commit to a specific date. "The health and safety of our team members is a priority for us. A specific date has not been determined," said Tyson spokesperson Hli Yang.

"Resuming operations is dependent on a variety of factors, including the outcome of team member testing for COVID-19. We’re working with local health officials on a plan to resume production as soon as we believe it to be safe for our team members,"said Yang.

Yang said Tyson is screening worker temperatures, requiring protective face coverings and conducting additional cleaning and sanitizing. The company has also implemented social distancing measures, such as workstation dividers and more breakroom space.

"We appreciate the administration’s efforts to help the food supply chain and we remain committed to protecting the safety of our team members as we continue our efforts to keep feeding American families," said Yang.

In neighboring Carroll County, the Indiana Packers plant in Delphi is also closed and its workforce of just over 2,000 people is being tested. Results of those tests are not available yet.

WRTV reached out to Indiana Packers for a response to the president's edict, but the company has not responded.