570 Tyson Foods Employees Test Positive For Coronavirus At North Carolina Plant

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Tyson Foods said Wednesday that 570 workers at its Wilkesboro, North Carolina, poultry facility have tested positive for COVID-19. That’s more than a fourth of the plant’s total workforce.

Tyson’s statement said all 2,244 employees and contractors at the site have been tested.

“We are working closely with local health departments to protect our team members and their families, and to help manage the spread of the virus in our communities,” said Tom Brower, senior vice president of health and safety for Tyson Foods. “We are using the most up-to-date data and resources to support our team members, and we are committed to ensuring they feel safe and secure when they come to work.”

Of the 570, most did not show any symptoms and “would not have been identified” if it weren’t for the facility-wide test, Tyson said. More than 2,000 were tested between May 6 and 9, according to the company.

Earlier this month, Tyson temporarily closed the poultry plant for cleaning and sanitizing in response to an outbreak, The News & Observer reported. The company wouldn’t say at the time how many employees were infected with coronavirus.

Wilkes County officials said that the majority of COVID-19 cases in the county were linked to the Tyson facility, the outlet reported.

Production has since continued and is expected to “ramp up,” the Wednesday statement said, and new safety measures have been put in place -- including temperature screenings, face masks, and physical barriers at workstations and break rooms.

“Our team members are essential to helping to feed the nation, and their health and safety is always our first priority,” said Kevin Taylor, complex manager for the Wilkesboro facility. “Disclosing our testing results will help better protect our team members and help provide the wider Wilkesboro community with the information it needs to stop the spread of the virus.”

Meat production facilities across the country have become hotspots of COVID-19.

A Tyson meat plant in Iowa saw 700, or 58% of the facility’s workforce, test positive for the virus, McClatchy News reported.

In April, Smithfield Foods was forced to close plants in North Carolina, South Dakota, Missouri and Wisconsin due to coronavirus, according to McClatchy News.

Many have blamed the virus for nationwide meat shortages, including Tyson board Chairman John Tyson, who just weeks ago proclaimed “The food supply chain is breaking,” McClatchy reported.

Other industry experts say that while the trend is concerning, it’s doubtful the food supply chain will “break.”

“It’s going to require everyone to just hang on and try to get through this,” Rob Handfield, a professor of operations and supply chain management at N.C. State University, told McClatchy News. “We’re not going to starve to death by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s going to be a rough time for some time to come.”

Source: News Observer

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