Tyson Foods announces expanded COVID-19 monitoring strategy

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Tyson Foods Inc. announced last week that it is launching a new COVID-19 monitoring program and expanding its occupational health staff, including a new chief medical officer position.

Tyson is the largest employer in Carroll County with plants in Berryville and Green Forest.

“The comprehensive COVID monitoring strategy was designed with the assistance of outside medical experts and includes ongoing data-driven COVID testing of workers without symptoms, as well as those who exhibit certain symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has the virus,” Tyson said in a news release issued Thursday, July 30.

“While the protective measures we’ve implemented in our facilities are working well, we remain vigilant about keeping our team members safe and are always evaluating ways to do more,” said Donnie King, Tyson Foods group president and chief administrative officer.

“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,” he said. “Adding more resources and technologies reinforces our commitment to protecting our team members, their families and plant communities.”

According to the news release, Tyson has already tested nearly a third of its workforce, which includes 120,000 people in the United States. The release says less than 1 percent of those employees have active COVID-19 cases.

Tyson Foods has created a chief medical officer position and plans to add almost 200 nurses and administrative support personnel to supplement the more than 400 people currently part of the company’s health services team. The additional nurses will conduct the on-site testing and assist with case management, coordinating treatment for team members who contract the virus, the release says.

The testing program includes three categories, the release says:

• Strategic, always-on monitoring. Team members who have no symptoms may be selected for testing based on an algorithm-based selection process. The number tested each week will be dynamic and adjusted based on factors, such as the number of positive cases involving plant workers as well as people in the community. 

• Symptomatic team members. The company conducts health screenings daily as team members arrive for work. Those found to have symptoms will be tested using CDC guidance. 

• Close contacts. Team members who have come into close contact with co-workers (or non-Tyson personnel in the workplace) who have symptoms or have tested positive will be tested according to CDC guidance.

“We’ve been piloting this program at several of our facilities and have seen great success,” King said in the news release. “Our team members tell us they feel especially supported by this scientifically sound combination of testing and monitoring.”

According to an occupational cluster report issued Friday, July 31, by the Arkansas Department of Health, a total of 91 Carroll County residents employed by poultry businesses have tested positive for COVID-19. The report says 80 of those people have recovered, while 11 still have active cases. Friends and family members have reported that two of the six Carroll County residents who have died from the virus were employed at the Tyson plant in Berryville.

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