Meat packing update: Iowa needs surge again

May 9, 2020

In Black Hawk County, Iowa, calls to 2-1-1 for housing, food and health care needs tripled as the pandemic began. Then a COVID-19 outbreak closed the county’s Tyson Foods’ pork packing plant. The resulting second surge was even bigger than the first. “Calls to 2-1-1 were starting to decline and shot up to a new plateau,” says Matthew Kreuter, professor of public health at Washington University, whose team tracks the social impact of COVID-19. “We haven’t seen that before.” Outbreaks of COVID-19 in meat packing plants are impacting communities across the United States. In an earlier report, we described increases in requests to 2-1-1 for housing, food and healthcare needs in Minnehaha County, South Dakota following an outbreak at the Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls. Now Black Hawk County, home to Tyson Foods’ largest pork packing plant, is seeing its own spike since the plant closed on April 22nd. Mouse over the bars in the chart below to see the number of requests received each day.

Contributors: Rachel Garg, Balaji Golla, Irum Javed, Matthew Kreuter