SPRINGDALE, ARK. – On May 12, Tyson Foods Inc. and Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department (ELVPHD) announced that 212 of the 1,467 employees at the company’s Madison, Neb., pork plant tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). Some employees were tested at a mass testing event at the facility, while local health providers tested other workers. Of the 112 identified through the mass testing at the plant, 74 were asymptomatic.
All employees who test positive receive paid leave and cannot return to work until they have met the criteria established by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Tyson.
“Our top priority is the health and safety of our team members, and we appreciate the collaboration and support of Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department as we provided testing and took steps to complement our existing prevention efforts,” said Tom Brower, senior vice president of health and safety for Tyson Foods. “As we learn more about this virus, we continue to do everything we can to protect our team members and ensure they feel safe and secure when they come to work. We’re proud of our Tyson team members and are supporting them with the most up-to-date information and resources to take care of their health.”
Mass testing took place at the Madison plant from May 1 to May 4 while the plant was temporarily idled to conduct deep cleaning and sanitizing. The closure also allowed for time for the test results to be received. Limited production has resumed at the facility.
“Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department would like to applaud Tyson on the early identification and containment of positive COVID-19 cases at its Madison plant,” said Gina Uhing, health director for ELVPHD. “Tyson’s careful attention and adherence to internal prevention policies and procedures within the plant, as well as its aggressive testing and containment activities, played a significant role in the low overall infection rate among its team members.”
Tyson is conducting daily clinical symptom screenings at its Madison facility including temperature checks for all plant employees before every shift, providing employees with mandatory protective face masks, as well as implementing social distancing measures including physical barriers between workstations and in break rooms.
Tyson has increased short-term disability coverage to 90% of normal pay until June 30 to encourage team members to stay home when they are sick. The company also has doubled its “thank you” bonus for its frontline workers. Team members who cannot come to work because of illness or child care issues related to COVID-19 will continue to qualify for the bonus.
“Tyson is the largest food company in the United States, and we are embracing our responsibility to lead during this unprecedented time,” said Steve Stouffer, group president of Tyson Fresh Meats. “We will continue to ensure that we are at the forefront of the industry when it comes to safety, exploring new ways to keep our team members healthy and protect our communities as we work to keep food on America’s tables.”