CORONAVIRUS

Children of deceased Tyson worker allege lax COVID-19 safety

This April 16, 2020 file photo shows the Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa. (Jim Slosiarek/Th
This April 16, 2020 file photo shows the Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The children of a Tyson Foods worker who died of the coronavirus in April have filed a lawsuit claiming his plant took few safety precautions before he and others became infected in Iowa’s first major outbreak.

Pedro Cano, 51, worked on the kill floor elbow-to-elbow with others at Tyson’s pork processing plant in Columbus Junction, according to the lawsuit recently filed in Johnson County.

Cano developed COVID-19 symptoms April 2, four days before Tyson announced that two dozen workers had tested positive and that production would be suspended. The lawsuit says Cano was hospitalized April 10 and died April 14. The plant resumed production with new safety measures a week after his death.

Cano’s three adult children filed the wrongful death lawsuit, which claims their father worked less than six feet away from others with no barriers in between and wasn’t given a mask by Tyson.

In all, state records show that 522 of the plant’s 1,300 workers tested positive for coronavirus, two died and a dozen required hospitalization.

The lawsuit alleges Tyson early on took no steps to require social distancing in changing areas, break rooms and other locations, did not screen sick employees and didn’t implement appropriate sanitizing practices. It claims gross negligence and fraudulent misrepresentation and seeks unspecified damages.

Tyson did not respond directly to the lawsuit’s claims but said Monday it formed a coronavirus task force in January, relaxed its attendance policy, encouraged ill workers to stay home, and was one of the first companies to check workers’ temperatures.

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Protective measures at its plants meet or exceed federal guidelines, and less than 0.5% of its U.S. workforce is actively infected, Tyson said.

The families of four deceased workers at Tyson’s pork plant in Waterloo have filed similar lawsuits.

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