Tyson Foods, Inc. announced Thursday new protective steps to fight COVID-19, less than a month after a lawsuit was filed alleging a manager at a plant in Waterloo organized “a cash-buy-in, winner-take-all, betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many plant employees would test positive for COVID-19” while ordering employees to report to work.
Tyson Foods suspended top managers at its largest pork plant November 19 and launched an investigation into allegations that they bet on how many workers would get infected during a widespread coronavirus outbreak.
The company said in Thursday’s news release it has invested $540 million to transform its U.S. facilities with protective measures, from walk-through temperature scanners and workstation dividers to social distance monitors and always-on testing, as well as provide additional team member pay and benefits. It is also working with outside health experts, expanding its health services staff, adding a chief medical officer position and also plans to pilot health clinics for team members and their families early next year.
“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 & chief human resources officer for Tyson Foods.
The pilot health clinics will be located in:
- Storm Lake, Iowa
- Carthage/Center, Texas
- Berryville, Arkansas
- Holcomb, Kansas
- Lexington, Nebraska
- Wilkesboro, North Carolina
- Newbern, Tennessee
Tyson is currently testing thousands of workers per week as part of its monitoring strategy. In addition to testing those with symptoms or who have been in close contact with someone who has the virus, the company is also proactively seeking to find the virus by testing workers who have no 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 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.”
Other measures include:
- Installing HEPA high-performance air filtration systems in some plant breakrooms to help reduce the 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
- Installing more than 150 infrared temperature scanners in company facilities
- Designating 150 social distancing monitors in company facilities to ensure company-provided daily personal protective equipment is properly worn and team members are following other best practices
Tyson also has hired an additional 200 nurses and administrative staff this year, which means the company now has almost 600 medical professionals on staff. These medical professionals screen for symptoms, conduct testing and track cases to help and care for team members if they become ill.