PORTLAND, MAINE – Tyson Foods Inc. announced that of the 403 employees and contractors who work at the company’s poultry processing facility in Portland, Maine, 51 tested positive for COVID-19, including 31 individuals who did not show any symptoms.
The announcement came after the company completed facility-wide testing for COVID-19 at the poultry plant where limited production resumed May 7. Employees who test positive receive paid leave and may return to work only when they have met the criteria established by both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention and Tyson.
Tyson said testing at the Portland facility took place May 2 - 4 while the plant was temporarily closed for deep cleaning and sanitization. The plant is in Cumberland County, where 714 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported as of May 11, the company said. Tyson said the company will disclose verified test results at other plants to health and government officials, employees and stakeholders as they become available. The company hopes to help affected communities where it operates better understand the coronavirus and protective measures that can be taken to help prevent its spread.
“Our top priority is the health and safety of our team members, and we are working with local health departments to manage the impact of this pandemic on our team members, their families and our communities,” said Tom Brower, senior vice president of Health and Safety for Tyson Foods. “As we learn more about this virus, we continue to do everything we can to protect our team members and ensure they feel safe and secure when they come to work. We’re proud of our Tyson team members and are supporting them with the most up-to-date information and resources to take care of their health.”
The Portland facility is among an initial group of more than 30 US production plants where Tyson is implementing advanced testing capabilities and enhanced care options on-site to workers in partnership with Matrix Medical, a medical clinical services company, and other partners. Tyson said the company is prioritizing communities with a higher prevalence of COVID-19. The company intends to assess additional needs based on clinically significant risk factors, CDC guidance and access to testing.
“As the largest food company in the United States, we not only bear a responsibility to lead, we embrace it,” said Chad Martin, group president, Poultry, for Tyson Foods. “We will continue to evolve and adapt as we lock arms across our company and the country to help protect our communities and maintain a healthy and stable food supply for tens of millions of Americans.”
Employees at the Portland facility will have access to daily clinical symptom screenings, nurse practitioners and enhanced education and support for personal health goals or concerns, Tyson said. These programs are in addition to temperature checks for all workers before every shift, providing mandatory protective face masks and a range of social distancing measures such as physical barriers between workstations and in break rooms.
Tyson increased short-term disability coverage to 90% of normal pay until June 30 to encourage team members to stay home when they are sick. The company also has doubled its “thank you” bonus for frontline workers. Employees who cannot come to work because of illness or childcare issues related to COVID-19 will continue to qualify, the company said.