WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Gov. Kim Reynolds and President Donald Trump met in the Oval Office Wednesday afternoon to discuss Iowa's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The White House's coronavirus task force, as well as Iowa's State Public Health Medical Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati, were also present for the meeting.
When asked how long it will take to process the backlog of live animals such as hogs and cattle, Reynolds didn't give an exact number right away.
She did say that Iowa is moving in that direction to bring most meat processing facilities back online. Reynolds said Trump's latest Executive Order to keep these plants open prevented what could have been more euthanizations among livestock.
"And so this is critical infrastructure. It's an essential workforce. And the team and the effort and the Executive Order, I think, has really prevented what could have been a really serious situation," Reynolds said.
She looked to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue for confirmation on if the state had "turned a corner." Both agreed.
Trump asked both Reynolds and Perdue on when these plants will be back online, to which they agreed on a week to 10 days.
However, Reynolds said the plants would reopen at a 60% capacity, calling it a "strong start up."
Vice President Mike Pence added that Trump's Executive Order will help keep all meat processing plants open across the United States.
Reynolds and Perdue included the necessity to keep workers at these plants safe.
"And it’s in tandem. We've done that. And so with the testing, with the PPE, with the restructuring in the facilities, they’re also doing a lot of that as well to try to social distance where they can, to put in shields where they can, to look at the lines to separate the shifts," Reynolds said. "...It's a partnership. Really."
Trump added that these plants will be in "great shape" in about a week-and-a-half, maybe sooner.
As the price of livestock has dropped, the price of meat products has skyrocketed. Trump said he'll have the Department of Justice look into it.
The Tyson Foods plant in Perry has seen over 700 reported cases, raising concerns about the health and safety of the plant's workers.
"We’ve looked at each of these plants. When we have an outbreak, the CDC employs a team on the ground," Pence said. "We also with the governor and other governors around the country to deploy personal protective equipment to allow the workforce to safely return once testing is done."
"In most of these meat processing plants, we end up testing everyone in the facility and the people that are healthy are able to return with new countermeasures and new protection, new face masks or gloves as the case may be."
Pence also said the task force is working with companies to put countermeasures into place.
Coronavirus cases by-county (Source: Iowa Department of Public Health)
"But as the [Secretary of Agriculture] said, our objective is two equal goals. Number one is the safety and health of the workforce in our meat processing plants and to ensure the strength of the food supply by getting people back to work and keeping the plants open," Pence explained.
Reynolds agreed, saying she appreciated everything the administration has done to ensure personal protective equipment for employees.
"They know how important it is to take care of their workforce," Reynolds said. "And a big part of it was providing them the confidence to go back into the facility knowing that they’d either tested positive and they’d recovered or they were on a shift with other employees that had tested negative."
Reynolds said that plants are also screening employees before they enter their facilities and requiring workers to wear a face mask.
"And they feel much better," Trump said.
"And they feel better. Yes. So, you know, it's a partnership," Reynolds replied.
PHOTOS: Gov. Kim Reynolds meets with President Trump in Oval Office (May 6, 2020)
Trump then shed some light on what the task force has in store for the future.
"People want to be on a task force. They want to be in everything. I never seen anything like this. Anything to do with this, they want to help, the biggest people. They want to be on the committees in the financial committee or the sports committee," he said.
Trump said his administration will be announcing some "very good names" soon.
"Now, in this case, you know, we want professional names that can help us, not just names where we put it up for the status of the task force," Trump said. "We don't need status, we need results.'
Reynolds said during the meeting that Iowa's ventilator availability is at 80 to 85%.
According to a pool report, Trump also questioned Dr. Pedati on COVID-19 and the possibility of it returning in the fall.
The president also joked about stealing Pedati from Iowa, saying that he's lost friends by doing that before.
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