About 150 workers at the TPI Composites Newton plant have tested positive for COVID-19 thus far, according to a source. The company confirmed in a press release today that approximately 20 percent of its employees contracted the novel coronavirus, based on a majority of its received results from mandatory testing one week ago.
One TPI worker has also died of COVID-19, Times-Republican Managing Editor Lana Bradstream reported. Kyle Brown, 54, of Marshalltown, worked maintenance for the wind turbine blade manufacturing plant. Brown died April 29.
TPI employs more than 1,000 workers at its Newton facility.
Workers who tested positive have been placed on mandatory quarantine. Others who had primary exposure to their fellow employees who tested positive are also required to self-isolate until they can safely return to work.
Considered an essential business, TPI said its employees who tested positive will need to be asymptomatic for 72 hours and “have an additional negative serological test” before returning to work.
The Jasper County-based employer decided its doors will remain closed and production paused until further notice. TPI said it is coordinating closely with the governor’s office on a return-to-work plan, expecting a staggered approach.
For the next few weeks, TPI plans to retest its entire workforce with serological tests. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say these tests examine a person’s antibodies, which are specific proteins that respond to infections.
“CDC’s serologic test has been designed and validated for broad-based surveillance and research purposes, to provide information needed to guide the response to the pandemic and protect the public’s health,” the CDC explains on its website.
Last weekend, TPI Composites mandated all its workers to undergo COVID-19 testing conducted by MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center. Their families were also provided surgical masks to prevent further community spread.
The mass testing was held in the Iowa Speedway parking lot in Newton. Workers were required to fill out paperwork and verify their employment and their identity before the nasopharyngeal swab testing.
Most tests were completed while TPI workers were still inside their vehicles to minimize the risk of spread. Mass testing began a few days after the manufacturer announced it would temporarily pause production in Newton.
“The health and safety of TPI’s associates and the communities in which they live remains TPI’s top priority and TPI is continuing to adhere to robust safety practices and preventative measures prescribed by CDC and WHO guidelines,” the company said in the press release.
“TPI is thankful for the strong cooperation and support from the state of Iowa.”
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