SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Tyson Foods announced a new nationwide COVID-19 monitoring strategy, which includes weekly testing of employees, on Thursday, according to a company press release.
The Springdale-based food processor says it plans to test thousands of workers every week across all facilities.
The new testing strategy was designed with the assistance of “outside medical experts” and will include ongoing, data-driven testing of workers without symptoms, “as well as those who exhibit certain symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has the virus,” the company says.
The coronavirus has infected thousands of meatpacking workers nationwide. According to Thursday’s release, “less than one percent of Tyson Foods’ U.S. workforce of 120,000 team members has active COVID-19.”
“What we’re adopting is a strategic, ongoing approach to combatting COVID-19,” said Donnie King, Tyson Foods group president. “It involves weekly testing of team members at our facilities to monitor for the presence of the virus. By using data science to test a statistically sound sample of team members, we have a better chance of staying ahead of any potential virus spread and protecting our teams and communities.”
The company says it designed the strategy with input from Matrix Medical, and it is “consistent with CDC guidance.”
In support of the effort, Tyson Foods says it has created a new chief medical officer position and plans to add “almost 200 nurses and administrative support personnel to supplement the more than 400 people currently part of the company’s health services team.”
The testing program includes three categories, according to the company release:
- Strategic, always-on monitoring. Team members who have no symptoms may be selected for testing based on an algorithm-based selection process. The number tested each week will be dynamic and adjusted based on factors, such as the number of positive cases involving plant workers as well as people in the community.
- Symptomatic team members. The company conducts health screenings daily as team members arrive for work. Those found to have symptoms will be tested using CDC guidance.
- Close contacts. Team members who have come into close contact with co-workers (or non-Tyson personnel in the workplace) who have symptoms or have tested positive will be tested according to CDC guidance.
“We’ve been piloting this program at several of our facilities and have seen great success,” said King.
An employee at the Tyson Foods plant in Van Buren, Arkansas plant died from COVID-19, a company spokesperson confirmed on Friday, June 26. In Georgia, four employees at one of the company’s chicken processing plants died after becoming infected with the virus.