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Agriculture secretary expects meatpacking plants to fully reopen within 10 days

Agriculture secretary expects meatpacking plants to fully reopen within 10 days
© Bonnie Cash

Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueSonny PerdueThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Georgia election day is finally here; Trump hopes Pence 'comes through for us' to overturn results Civil war between MAGA, GOP establishment could hand Dems total control Trump administration races to finish environmental rules, actions MORE on Wednesday said U.S. meatpacking plants will fully reopen in the next seven to 10 days after coronavirus outbreaks sparked closures and led to shortages at grocery stores and fast food chains.

“I’d say probably a week to 10 days where it’s fully back up,” Perdue said when asked by President TrumpDonald TrumpWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Poll: 30 percent of GOP voters believe Trump will 'likely' be reinstated this year Black Secret Service agent told Trump it was offensive to hold rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth: report MORE about timing during a meeting at the White House with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R).

“I think we’ve turned a corner," Perdue added. "We see these plants coming back online. Obviously because of some infected employees, they won’t be full force for a while. But we think the stores will be, you’ll see more variety and more meat cases fully supplied.”

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Perdue said on Thursday that meat processing facilities would be reopening in a matter of “days not weeks.” Those remarks came two days after Trump signed an executive order compelling meat processing facilities to remain open during the pandemic.

Reynolds said Wednesday that the executive order “has really maybe prevented what could have been a really serious situation.”

“Perry came back up at 60 percent capacity which is really, that’s a strong startup,” she said, referring a plant in Perry, Iowa.

That plant, a Tyson Foods meat factory, had 700 employees test positive for coronavirus, more than 50 percent of its workforce.

Other plants in Iowa have been closed due to infections. Tyson Foods said it will resume limited production on Thursday at its largest pork plant in Waterloo, Iowa, after it closed due to absent workers.

“We’ll have most of our facilities up and going. So as we continue to keep them up and processing and bring more back online … we’re going to hopefully prevent what could have been a really sorry situation,” Reynolds said. “This is critical infrastructure. It’s an essential workforce.”