AMARILLO, TEXAS —The family of a Tyson Foods employee who died from COVID-19 and worked at the Amarillo, Texas, beef plant filed a federal lawsuit against the company for wrongful death.

The lawsuit alleges that Pwar Gay tripped and fell and injured her knee in a job-related incident at the plant. The suit said that Tyson sent Gay to its company clinic, where she received first aid treatment and was sent back to work.

According to legal documents, Gay was not permitted to go home to rest or seek medical attention due to Tyson’s shortage in staff. Gay then fell ill and experienced difficulty breathing and was admitted to the hospital. She tested positive for COVID-19 and died on May 8.

Tyson issued the following response to the lawsuit.

“We are saddened by the loss of any Tyson team member and sympathize with Ms. Gay’s family at this difficult time,” said Worth Sparkman, spokesperson for Tyson Foods, in response to the lawsuit. “At Tyson Foods, our top priority is the health and safety of our team members, and we have put in place a host of protective steps at our facilities that meet or exceed CDC and OSHA guidelines for preventing COVID-19.”

In other news out of Amarillo, the city released a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about strategies to reduce the spread of COVID-19 at the Tyson beef plant in Amarillo. 

The report acknowledged that the company had already taken steps to prevent the spread of the virus. Such measures included body scan temperature monitoring and Plexiglass dividers to separate floor workers. Visual markers were installed to encourage social distancing and face shields for workers had also been provided.

However, the CDC report also recommended that the plant start to contact trace individuals with COVID-19 and help workers with sick leave paperwork. 

According to Amarillo Public Health, there have been 2,809 cases of COVID-19 around the city since the pandemic started, including 2,193 in Potter County, where the Tyson plant is located. 

High Plains Public Radio reported all 3,587 employees were tested at the beef plant. 

“Tyson Foods has been working closely with local health officials and has conducted large-scale COVID-19 testing at our Amarillo facility,” Sparkman said. “We will disclose verified test results with health and government officials, team members and other stakeholders once complete data is available as part of our efforts to help communities where we operate better understand the coronavirus and the protective measures that can be taken to help prevent its spread.”

On May 16, Governor Greg Abbott reported 700 new positive cases following testing at meat processing facilities in Amarillo. 

Abbott said on May 16 that plants with widespread outbreaks have temporarily shut down for thorough disinfection. He also said that individuals who test positive and cannot isolate are offered rooms in area hotels. Texas Department of State Health Services continues to maintain an alternate care site for patients that do not require hospitalization. 

“As Texas continues ramping up its testing capabilities, there will be an increase in positive cases as the state targets the most high-risk areas: nursing homes, meatpacking plants and jails,” Abbott said. “That is exactly why I established Surge Response Teams. By immediately deploying resources and supplies to these high-risk areas, we will identify the positive cases, isolate the individuals and ensure any outbreak is quickly contained, which is the strategy being deployed in Amarillo.”