Jaw-dropping 58% of Perry Tyson workers test positive


Fully 730 workers at the Tyson Fresh Meats pork processing plant in Perry have tested positive for COVID-19, the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced Tuesday. The number of cases represents 58% of the Perry plant’s labor force and is by far the largest portion of a infected labor population found so far in Iowa.

Some 1,250 workers at the Perry factory received surveillance testing April 25, and the results were released Tuesday by Sarah Reisetter, IDPH deputy director, at the daily press conference held by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.

The infection rate among Perry’s workers far exceeds the rates found in other Tyson plants. Reisetter said the Tyson factory in Columbus Junction reported 221 positive cases, representing 26% of the workforce. The Tyson plant in Waterloo saw 444 workers infected, a 17% infection rate, she said.

The National Beef factory in Tama reported 258 positive cases, a 39% infection rate.

Perry city officials and Tyson spokespersons were not immediately available for comment.


  1. It has only been just over a week and Tyson workers who tested postive are back to work. IPDH says it can take 2 weeks to even show symptoms. So, really the week they had off didnt stop anything. Thanks Tyson! Better.hope I dont get Covid!

  2. It is difficult to understand why management at Tyson didn’t take the necessary actions and revamp work processes back in March to provide a safe work environment for their employees. Now they look like they cared more about the almighty dollar than about their employees.

  3. Congrats Jim for your story making it onto the Maddow Blog. Wish Perry’s name wasn’t about this! Thanks for your reporting!

      • Your report was on the 8 p.m. Rachal Maddow Show. ThePerryNews.com was given credit for reporting that 58% coronavirus victims at Tyson. Up until then it was reported that Tyson would not release info until at least 10% of the employees tested positive. CONGRATULATIONS!

      • And you made her show last night. Your news article was featured! Hope you can watch the episode. It was fantastic coverage and analysis!

  4. I hate to say it but we are in Iowa. We will always be able to get meat even if we have to buy from small-town lockers.
    Those folks in the cities where they will arrest you for Peacefully Assembling, Free Speech, or trying to Excersize Religion without Government interference are the ones who need to worry.
    Their government officials will keep them locked in their homes without meat especially if they dare to complain.

    • I live in Waukee and go in and out of Des Moines. I have never seen or read of anyone arrested for peacefully assembling, which I have been a part of. I am free to attend my Waukee Methodist Church without government interference. And I have freely expressed my beliefs in public as well as in letters to the editor. Unfortunately, most small-town lockers have closed, so the few that are left will have a hard time keeping up if the demand is high.

    • Well, hope the people that are infected do not live in your town to spread the disease. The only way we kept the numbers down is by social distancing. It works. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Stay healthy.

  5. Maddow currently lambasting IA’s governor and Tyson on her evening show. Tsk tsk…. hiding information until it’s too late. Maddow never hides info.

  6. There needs to be more accountability from the local health department, elected officials and board of health on this! There is no reason this information should have been withheld from the public. The HIPAA rationale didn’t hold up, and even after the State Auditor said that the information is not bound by HIPAA, only silence from the county and its leadership. Not acceptable.

  7. Mary is correct. What about the rights of the residents of Perry to make informed decisions about potential exposure to the virus? Now we find out that a number equal to 10% of our city’s population has been infected? For a number of Perry residents, it is likely too late to take extra precautions now that we realize such a huge number of Tyson employees are infected. This many people infected have had to spread the virus. We all had the right to know how serious the problem was. Completely unacceptable behavior from all levels of Tyson’s and the state officials put in place to protect us.

  8. Local health departments have zip code level covid data at their fingertips right now. (I understand employer data is more challenging with employees who commute from other counties). But, there is no excuse for not sharing zip code level covid numbers. This data would be more helpful than what the county is currently sharing on its website (which is redundant and already available through the State). https://dallas-county-coronavirus-response-geodallas.hub.arcgis.com/. Reporting could be limited if there were fewer than a certain number of cases (such as less cases than 10 in any community to protect privacy), but it is time for us to speak up and demand greater transparency from our county.

  9. Jim-Those of us across the U.S. who watched Rachel Maddow’s show are curious about how your medical resources are able to keep up with the large volume of COVID-19 cases. Would you be willing to write a follow-up piece on how the local medical resources are managing the outbreak? Also, given the statements by the Agriculture Secretary Sunny Purdue yesterday, what does Tyson plan to do about reopening the plant?

    • Thank you for your message. I will inquire with the local medical service providers, such as the county hospital here, but I have previously found them generally unwilling to release any information. While all the positive cases work at the Perry plant, they do not all live in Perry. A large number of workers are van-pooled here every day from the Des Moines metro area. In recent years, the plant has hired a good number of refugees from Eritrea, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These workers live among their fellow refugees in communities in the Des Moines area and commute to Perry from there instead of living here. They would most likely receive their medical services in Des Moines as well rather than in Perry. Another large portion of the Perry workforce is people with roots in Mexico and Central America who have lived in Perry and worked at the pork plant since the 1990s. Given the town’s proximity to Des Moines, many of these Perry residents might also get their medical services in the metro. All of this would tend to keep pressure off the resources of the local hospital. Nevertheless, I shall inquire. As for Mr. Perdue, I am not sure what he said yesterday, but the Perry plant is currently open and operating as far as I know. In spite of the high infection rate, Tyson has not done in Perry what they did in Waterloo, which was to close for two weeks. But what did Mr. Perdue say?

  10. I wonder how many of those who tested positive are asymptomatic, here as well as at other plants with high numbers of positive tests? I have searched, and cannot find the answer to this question. If a high percentage exhibited no symptoms, but were only tested because they were mandated to do so, one could deduce that in the general population there are probably a lot more positives than reported. Asympomatic people would have no reason to get tested. Thus, the death rate would be much lower than reported. I’m not saying this is the case, but one would think that this information would be available somewhere.

  11. Let’s go to Tyson and protest what they did to the workers in the plant. They put the town of Perry in danger. It’s only obvious Tyson and their Japanese buyers only care about money. We interact with a lot of plant workers. How are we as a community going to get our economy up and running when inconsiderate corporations are running a meatpacking plant with over 700 COVID-19 positive cases, the most pos cases. If you continue to keep your plant up and running with affected COVID cases, you won’t have anyone to process your livestock. It’s sad for the employees and for the town of Perry, totally unexceptable. They chose money over a human beings’ safety. Thanks, Tyson. We can get meat from local farmers. I’m totally disgusted with the way everything was handled. Other city officials in other towns did accordingly. Our community didn’t need yo be the weakest link. We put our trust in you. Perry has changed. We need strong leadership, more compassion for the people and not against the people. My family better not get this virus.


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