Tyson Foods launches new COVID-19 strategy; testing thousands of workers weekly

Business

FILE – In this Jan. 29, 2006, file photo, a car passes in front of a Tyson Foods Inc., sign at Tyson headquarters in Springdale, Ark. Tyson Foods plans to administer thousands of coronavirus tests per week at its U.S. facilities under an expanded effort to protect workers and keep plants running. The Springdale, Arkansas-based company, which processes about 20% of all beef, pork and chicken in the U.S., on Wednesday, July 29, 2020, said it will randomly test employees who have no symptoms as well as those with symptoms (AP Photo/April L. Brown, File)

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (NewsNation) – Tyson Foods is planning to test thousands of workers every week across its facilities nationwide as part of a new COVID-19 monitoring program.

According to a statement from the company, it will implement a comprehensive monitoring program with a three-pronged approach.

In addition to daily employee health screenings to monitor for symptoms, some team members will be randomly selected for testing based on an algorithm that considers data collected on the number of positive cases involving plant workers and in the greater community. Along with random testing, symptomatic employees and those within close contact with co-workers or non-Tyson personnel with symptoms will be tested.

“We believe launching a new, strategic approach to monitoring and adding the health staff to support it will help further our efforts to go on the offensive against the virus,” said Donnie King, Tyson Foods group president and chief administrative officer, in the release. “Adding more resources and technologies reinforces our commitment to protecting our team members, their families and plant communities.”

The strategy was designed with the assistance of outside medical experts and the company has created a chief medical officer position to support the plan. Also included in the roll out is hiring almost 200 nurses and administrative support personnel.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents many of Tyson’s 120,000 U.S. workers, said other meat processing companies should follow Tyson’s lead.

“UFCW is urging all companies in the industry to follow Tyson’s lead and take immediate action to expand COVID-19 monitoring as we work to flatten the curve,” said UFCW President Marc Perrone in the statement. “Together, we will continue to look for new and better ways to protect the health and safety of the brave front-line workers who are so important to the nation’s food production system,” Perrone said.

Unions representing workers at 10 chicken processing plants in six states are suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to challenge a policy that allows companies to increase production speeds that the unions say puts workers at risk.

The lawsuit alleges that the waivers (first allowed in 2018) violate the Administrative Procedure Act, endanger worker health and put them at risk during the coronavirus pandemic by making adequate distancing nearly impossible.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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