The Iowa Public Health Department gave false information about the number of coronavirus cases at a meatpacking plant in May, halving the number of confirmed cases when speaking to the public. The agency announced on May 5 that the Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Columbus Junction had 221 infected employees. But, Tyson managers had told state officials days before that 522 workers of the roughly 1,300 at the facility had tested positive, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press through an open records request. A dozen employees were already hospitalized, and two were dead.
A spokesperson for the health department told the Associated Press, “Keep in mind, we had just established an outbreak definition, and wanted to share the information we had available. Since that initial round of testing back in April, the testing reporting process has significantly improved.” A spokesperson for Tyson said that the cases announced May 5 reflected only the first round of testing but did not explain why the department would not have used data Tyson itself had provided. Coronavirus has proved especially challenging for meatpacking plants, with severe outbreaks across the country in other processing facilities.