SPRINGDALE, Ark. – After testing 1,142 workers on-site at Tyson Foods’ chicken processing plant in Noel, Mo., in addition to testing by the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services and other cases confirmed by some workers’ health care providers, Tyson officials confirmed on June 26 a total of 371 employees of the facility tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19).

On-site testing at the plant was conducted from June 17 to June 19, according to the company, which identified 291 positive cases among workers. Of those, 249 people showed no symptoms of the virus. Tyson said the facility-wide testing in Noel was conducted with Matrix Medical and was one of 40 locations where it is implementing testing and prevention programs across the country.

The company has conducted approximately 40,000 tests in the United States, representing about one-third of its employees in the country. Per company policy, workers testing positive are put on paid leave while on quarantine and must be cleared to return to work by meeting criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Tyson Foods. 

Tyson’s large-scale testing method is designed to protect employees and the communities where it operates facilities while maintaining the supply chain for its customers. State health officials approve of the company’s approach and programs.

“We are pleased that Tyson was able to effectively use the ‘box-in’ strategy by conducting facility-wide testing of their Noel team members,” said Randall Williams, MD, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “This approach will help protect the health of the Tyson team members and also the community at large.”

Tyson’s program includes protecting workers at its processing plants by requiring workers to be screened for symptoms before shifts and providing them with face masks. Social distancing measures include installation of workstation and break room barriers and deploying more than 500 social distancing monitors across its facilities.

Tom Brower, senior vice president of health and safety for Tyson said it is sharing information it discovers through its testing and prevention programs.

“We believe it’s imperative that we share our experience addressing this pandemic because safety is not a point of competitive advantage,” he said. “For example, we continue to explore additional enhancements in personal protective equipment, airflow enhancements in our facilities, and improving healthcare options for our team members in the communities where we do business.”

Sharing testing results is part of the information sharing campaign, said Nathan McKay, complex manager at the Noel facility.

“Our team members do essential work, and their health and safety come first,” McKay said. “It is our job to protect our team members, and by disclosing our results we not only take the necessary precautions for our facility, but also provide the wider Noel community with the information it needs to stop the spread of the virus.”