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May 21, 2020

Tyson Foods reveals high Covid-19 test count at US plant

Tyson Foods has revealed hundreds of workers have tested positive for Covid-19 at a poultry plant in the US.

By Dean Best

Tyson Foods has revealed more than 500 workers tested positive for Covid-19 at its poultry plant in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

The US-based meat giant said the positive cases emerged from a facility-wide testing of 2,244 staff at the site, with 570 giving a confirmed diagnosis. The majority showed no coronavirus symptoms, the company said. 

Some 237 workers were tested by the Department of Health or through their own healthcare providers, while an additional 2,007 individuals who were tested on-site from 6-9 May, New York-listed Tyson said in a statement.

Employees who have tested positive are on leave with full pay, and can only return to work once cleared by health authorities and Tyson itself.

Kevin Taylor, the complex manager for the Wilkesboro plant, said: “Our team members are essential to helping to feed the nation, and their health and safety is always our first priority. 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.”

Tyson said it has rolled out “advanced testing capabilities” across its 30 or so US production facilities and is “prioritising communities with a higher prevalence of Covid-19 and will assess additional needs based on significant risk factors and access to testing”.

The meat firm has been plagued by Covid-19 infections at a large number of plants, some of which have been forced to temporarily shutdown or pause production as the appropriate cleaning and sanitisation processes are carried out. To date, the affected sites include: Portland, Maine; Waterloo, Iowa; Goodlettsville and Shelbyville, Tennessee; Pasco, Washington; Dakota City, Nebraska; and Longansport, Indiana. 

“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, the senior vice president of health and safety at 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.”

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