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Tyson worker shares personal experience of having COVID-19

Labor advocates are opposed to plants re-opening.

WATERLOO, Iowa — As more and more meatpacking plants begin to reopen, many will be operating at a reduced level.

Labor advocates are opposed to plants reopening, some say it's putting workers' lives at risk.

Tyson employee Zach Medhaug says, "Tyson took their time to get us all tests and get it available."

A Tyson employee for eight years, Zach tested positive for COVID-19. 

"It felt like someone kicked me in the face."

He works at Tyson's Waterloo plant, the hardest hit in Eastern Iowa.

"My boss didn't care if I went to go wash my hands 20 times in an hour as long as I could still work and get the work done," he said.

As meat processing plants became coronavirus hot spots, and the virus took hold, 444 staff members at the Waterloo plant tested positive.

"The cold heart truth is no one saw this coming the way it came," said Zach.

Together, Gov. Reynolds and Tyson launched COVID-19 strike teams.

"We helped our employees recover and really provide the reassurance and confidence to return to work in a save environment and keep our food supply chain moving," said Gov. Reynolds.

UFCW Local 431 President Bob Waters says he's concerned about all Tyson workers.

"If you test positive and get sent out of the plant you get short term disability," said Waters.  "They've increased short term disability, they've waived all their waiting periods and their deductibles and they've increased it from 60 -90 per cent of your base pay."

Tyson has implemented changes since reopening on May 7th. All employees must answer 10 pre-screening questions and their temperature is taken. Social distancing markers are prominent throughout, and partitions have been installed between work stations.

Tyson says they have implemented an infrared temperature scanner at their Joslin facility. Anyone with a temperature above 99.5 will be sent home.