Tyson Foods Plans To Conduct Testing Within Their Meat Processing Plants

Screengrab / MSNBC / YouTube

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After several coronavirus outbreaks, Tyson Foods is implementing health screenings to keep employees safe.

Tyson Foods, one of the largest meat processing companies in the US, plans to conduct thousands of coronavirus tests weekly after multiple outbreaks have occurred within their plants, according to a report by The Hill.

The company plans to install new infrastructure in addition to hiring about 200 nurses, a 400-person medical team, and a chief medical officer to assist in preventing future outbreaks.

Tyson plans to randomly test workers, both symptomatic and asymptomatic, to try and detect the virus early on. Employees who have been exposed to another worker who has tested positive will also receive a test.

The plan for daily health screenings was developed alongside health care provider Matrix Medica. These provisions will be implemented within all of Tyson’s 140 US factories.

Several other companies have implemented protocol to keep employees safe.

Smithfield Foods, a meat processing plant that is responsible for a bulk of US pork production, has implemented guidelines in line with CDC recommendations. Such practices include the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and face shields, physical barriers to separate employees, temperature and health screenings, and access to free testing.

Meat processing workers have been heavily affected by the pandemic due to the close proximity that occurs within facilities. In June, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union reported that 93 meatpacking employees had died to coronavirus and more than 16,000 were infected or exposed.

Companies like Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods, and JBS USA all faced outbreaks that closed facilities, resulting in higher meat prices due to the scarcity of resources. Some grocery stores began limiting how much meat each customer could purchase.

To help remedy the situation, President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act in April, marking meat processing plants as critical infrastructure and ordering their reopening.

Since most processing employees are Black or Latino, many worker groups filed complaints to the US Department of Agriculture claiming civil rights violations by companies like Tyson Foods and JBS for contributing to the spread of the illness.

“Targeted, workplace-specific prevention strategies are critical to reducing COVID-19 associated health disparities among vulnerable populations,” read the report.

According to prior data by the CDC, close to 90 percent of meatpacking employees were minorities.

“Meat-processing workers are uniquely vulnerable to the coronavirus and the risk of contracting it because of the oppressive and dangerous working conditions in these facilities,” said attorney Brent Newell of Public Justice, the lead representation for these workers. "This is about how those black, Latino and Asian workers are more significantly affected than their white co-workers."

Read the full report here.

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