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Local 5 - weareiowa.com | Des Moines Local News & Weather | Des Moines, Iowa

President Trump to sign Executive Order to keep meat processing plants open under Defense Production Act

Gov. Kim Reynolds said during her press conference Tuesday that it is "essential" the plants remain open.

With the capacity of meatpacking plants significantly down the past several weeks due to outbreaks of COVID-19 at several locations, President Donald Trump is stepping in to help secure the nation's food supply.

On Tuesday, the president is expected to sign an Executive Order to keep meat processing plants open under the Defense Production Act. A Trump administration official says the White House is looking at providing guidance for those most at risk of COVID-19 complications.

Iowa is home to 18 packing plants.

A Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo has been closed since last week after dozens of workers tested positive for coronavirus. Packing plants in Louisa County and Tama County have also been home to outbreaks and were temporarily shut down. They've since reopened. The Waterloo plant has indefinitely suspended operations. Mass testing has been slow to roll out at the packing plants; some are getting assistance from the state to help implement testing, while others are not mandating their workers to get tested.

At her press briefing on Tuesday, Gov. Kim Reynolds said she has spoken with nearly every leader of the packing plants in Iowa and is confident they are protecting their workforce with proper protective gear. 

"It is essential that we not only protect the workforce but that we keep our processing plants open so we can keep the food supply chain moving or we're going to be really dealing with some significant issues going forward," said Reynolds. "Not only from a food supply protein effort, but really even the cost of food as well."

In the past several weeks, the governor has been asked what her communication has been like with the thousands of workers at these impacted meatpacking plants. She has not said she has spoken to the workers. Local 5 has had conversations with many in the packing plants, some of whom say they are afraid to go to work for fear of getting the virus. 

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