SPRINGDALE, ARK. – As coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continue to rise in the United States, Tyson Foods Inc. outlined the safety measures and testing it is making available for its employees.

The meat and poultry producer said that it has invested $540 million in its US facilities during 2020 including installing 150 temperature scanners and workstation dividers, employing 150 social distance monitors, COVID-19 testing, and additional workers pay and benefits. 

The company said in its release on Dec. 3 that more than half of its workforce has been tested for COVID-19.

“We’ve learned a great deal during the pandemic and are implementing measures such as a new COVID-19 testing strategy, which are enabling us to move from defense to offense in our efforts to actively search for and fight the virus,” said Johanna Söderström, executive vice president and chief human resources officer for Tyson Foods. 

Tyson said it is also working outside health experts and expanding its own health services staff including a chief medical officer position. 

In 2021, the company also announced its plans to have seven pilot health clinics for workers and families in 2021. The location for these clinics include: Carthage/Center, Texas; Berryville, Ark.; Storm Lake, Iowa; Holcomb, Kan.; Lexington, Neb.; Wilkesboro, NC; and Newbern, Tenn.

Currently, Tyson is testing thousands of workers per week as part of its monitoring strategy. The company said it tests people with symptoms, people who come in close contact with someone, and some without symptoms. 

“The new monitoring program we helped Tyson create is a science-first approach that’s really on the cutting edge of how workplaces can best mitigate the risk of the virus,” said Dr. Daniel Castillo, chief medical officer for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Matrix Medical Network. “You’ll likely see many others adopt a similar approach in the coming months because it’s a process that looks both at people showing symptoms as well as those who do not.”

During late April, Tyson announced a partnership with Matrix Medical Network. 

Other steps Tyson took during 2020 to keep its facilities include: 

  • Installing HEPA high-performance air filtration systems in some plant breakrooms to help reduce the risk of transmission
  • Conducting continuous, daily cleaning at all facilities, and in some plants doing a nightly sanitizer fogging of high traffic areas such as break rooms, conference rooms, cafeteria and locker rooms

“Given the widely-reported rise of Covid-19 cases across the US and other parts of the world, we know we must remain diligent in our efforts to protect our team members,” said Tom Brower, senior vice president of health and safety for Tyson Foods. “In addition to strategic testing, we’re committed to continuing to work with outside health experts to find new, even more effective ways to tackle the virus.”

During the holiday season, Tyson said it recently mailed flyers to all its US employees to remind them to stay safe. The company said it will hold weekly meetings stressing the risks of large gathers, confined spaces and other potential virus spreading places. Tyson also continues to put up new signage and other communication in multiple languages to keep people informed of the virus in its facilities. 

In October, the company filed a 10-page report from a scientific working group of experts laying out what processing plants can do to deal with the pandemic.