SPRINGDALE, ARK. – Tyson Fresh Meats, the beef and pork unit of Tyson Foods Inc., announced on April 29 that its Dakota City, Neb., beef facility would wind down production and temporarily pause operations May 1 through May 4. The company will perform a deep cleaning of the entire plant.
With just over 20,000 residents, Dakota County, where the plant is located, reported 704 cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) as of April 29. It has emerged as another in a series of hot spots in the state for the virus, joining cities where other meat processing facilities operate, including Crete in Saline County and Grand Island in Hall County. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reports a total of 3,784 positive cases in the state with 68 deaths linked to the virus as of April 30.
Tyson said it has been working closely with the local health department and is also screening plant workers for the coronavirus (COVID-19) this week, with assistance from the Nebraska National Guard.
“Team member safety has and continues to be top priority for us and we’re grateful for our team members and their critical role in helping us fulfill, to the best of our ability, our commitment to helping feed people in our community and across the nation,” said Shane Miller, senior vice president and general manager beef enterprise for Tyson Fresh Meats. “We’ve been focused on COVID-19 since January when we first formed a company coronavirus task force. Since that time, we’ve implemented numerous measures to protect workers and, at times, have gone beyond CDC guidance.”
The Dakota City facility employs 4,300 people and normally produces enough beef in one day to feed 18 million people, according to Tyson Fresh Meats. However, growing absenteeism during the last few weeks has scaled back production.
Tyson said it collaborated with the UFCW Local 222 to compensate employees and asked them to continue following CDC guidance such as social distancing, persistent hand washing and wearing facial coverings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The company noted that a team from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, working with local health officials, toured the facility last week to see implemented preventive measures.
“We have a dedicated health and safety team working with local, state and federal health officials and our facility operations team to make timely decisions about operations,” Miller said. “Our decisions on resuming operations during this challenging time will continue to be based on team member safety.”