COVID-19: What’s Next? Walmart, Tyson discuss pandemic impact

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Big businesses were no exception to the challenges brought on by the pandemic

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — In the early days of the pandemic, you remember the toilet paper frenzy, sanitizer, and cleaning supplies flying off the shelves. The change in consumer habits made it feel like Black Friday every day inside of Walmart stores.

“It put pressure on our supply chain because there’s a rhythm typically to when people buy things -seasonality, holidays, things like that but almost all of that was changed overnight,” Dan Barlett said.

Dan Bartlett is the Vice President of Corporate Affairs. He says the sudden change forced Walmart to change its policies like mandating masks and enforcing social distancing.

“We wish we had all of the information that we have now back six, seven, eight months ago,” Barlett said. “We probably would’ve instilled things quicker.”

Tyson Foods also faced the challenge of being an essential service and keeping people healthy.

Derek Burleson is the company’s spokesperson.

He says the company has invested hundreds of millions of dollars installing things like temperature scanners, workstation dividers, and robust testing.

“We hired a chief medical officer and hundreds of additional health services staff,” Burleson said.

Tyson earned nationwide bad press following the revelation of managers at an Iowa plant placing bets on workers contracting the virus.

The company has been able to keep cases low since then and has adapted to a change in demand as well.

“As restaurants closed down and saw much less business and the demand in retail in grocery stores increased, I think that speaks to the flexibility of our business,” Burleson said.

The pandemic just accelerated consumer trends and e-commerce like grocery pickup at stores and delivery. Habits that Walmart wants to keep investing in.

“The fact that we have stores all around the country so close to people, we feel like we have the advantage there where we can do it better than anyone else,” Bartlett said.

Despite layoffs reported this past summer due to restructuring of the company, Walmart hired about half a million people during the pandemic.

“These are people who are out of a job just like that and Walmart was able to be a lifeline for them to have some income and work,” Bartlett said.

Now a year later, Tyson and Walmart are once again met with helping slow the spread of covid-19, this time in the form of a vaccine.

Walmart is helping administer the vaccine in some states, while also educating employees about its benefits.

“Just like everybody in the country, we’re going to really tackle that through education and listening and finding ways to make them feel more comfortable about taking the vaccine,” Bartlett said.

Tyson is taking the same approach.

“We’ve been translating those materials, we’ve provided a toll-free hotline so if they have questions about the vaccine they can call that number and ask those questions,” Burleson said.

The safety measures inside of Tyson are staying put for the time being.

Despite some states lifting mask mandates, Walmart says, for now, you’re still going to need to wear that mask when you shop regardless of where you live.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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