SPRINGDALE, Ark. — Tyson Foods Inc. has announced the results of facility-wide testing for COVID-19 at its locations in Benton and Washington Counties, Ark., where nearly 95 percent of its employees who tested positive for the virus did not show any symptoms and otherwise would not have been identified.
Tyson has put in place a host of protective steps in collaboration with local health and government officials that meet or exceed CDC and OSHA guidance for preventing COVID-19 at its facilities. The company is also pursuing community outreach efforts to educate team members on the risk factors associated with COVID-19 to ensure they can stay safe not only at work but also at home. These initiatives reflect Tyson’s commitment to help team members and the communities where it operates better understand the coronavirus and measures that can be taken to prevent its spread.
Tyson noted that it’s the only meat-processing company to conduct large-scale COVID-19 testing of its employees in Northwest Arkansas. Beginning in early June, the company carried out onsite testing at its Berry Street, Chick-N-Quick, Tyson Distribution Center, Tyson of Rogers, Randall Road, Fayetteville, Springdale Growout, Gas Company, ITC Hatchery and Johnson Road Mill facilities.
Of the 3,748 team members who were tested onsite, 481 or 13 percent tested positive — of whom 455 or nearly 95 percent were asymptomatic — with wide variations among the percentage of positive cases at these facilities. This is in addition to 212 positive cases among team members identified by the Department of Health or when seeking care through their own health care providers. As of June 19, Benton and Washington Counties have reported a 6 percent and 18 percent positive rate among individuals tested, respectively.
“Tyson is not only taking steps to protect the health of their employees, but also helping to ensure the well-being of entire communities, and we are experiencing the benefits of their public service,” said Greg Hines, Mayor of Rogers, Ark., who toured the Tyson Chick-N-Quick facility in Rogers with other public health officials in early June. “I’m incredibly impressed with the leadership Tyson has shown in proactively testing team members in our community, as well as the many protective measures and social distancing protocols that Tyson has implemented to create a safe workplace. Their efforts and processes are paving the way for a new normal in terms of how businesses operate.”
“The results across our Northwest Arkansas facilities, and the country more broadly, reflect how much is still unknown about this virus, which is why Tyson is committed to providing information to our local health officials and enhanced education to our team members,” said Tom Brower, senior vice president of health and safety for Tyson Foods. “Through our inclusive approach to large-scale testing, we are finding that a very high level of team members who test positive do not show symptoms. Identifying asymptomatic cases helps the community, since other testing is often limited to people who feel unwell.”
Tyson has been based in Arkansas since 1935 and employs 24,500 team members in the state. The Northwest Arkansas locations where testing took place are among more than 40 production facilities in the U.S. where Tyson is rolling out advanced testing capabilities to team members in partnership with Matrix Medical, a leading medical clinical services company, and other partners. Axiom Medical, a health care case management provider, is also tracking the symptoms of team members who test positive and providing additional care at select facilities.
The protective measures include symptom screenings for all team members before every shift, providing mandatory protective face masks to all team members, as well as a range of social distancing measures, including physical barriers between workstations and in breakrooms. In addition, Tyson has implemented social distancing monitors at each processing facility to ensure team members are maintaining safe distances. Tyson is also working with team members to provide training and education in several languages on how best to follow CDC guidelines both at work and home.
The company also has doubled its “thank you” bonus for its frontline workers. Team members who cannot come to work because of illness or childcare issues related to COVID-19 will continue to qualify.