In recent months, Tyson Foods has taken a leading position when it comes to worker safety and COVID-19 testing of our team members. We believe facility-wide testing at many of our locations, along with a number of other safety measures, have been crucial to the fight against the virus.
We have openly disclosed test results with local, state and federal officials as well as the media for the benefit of understanding COVID-19 and protecting the communities where we operate. We’ve also opened our plants for tours to each of these groups. Doing so means we have shared best practices that others can implement to keep those they encounter at work, home and in the general public safe.
Now, we are moving into an even more strategic form of COVID-19 monitoring we believe will best protect our team members and communities in the long-term. This is an exciting new phase that we are pleased to have partnered with leading experts at Matrix Medical to develop.
As with other safety measures we have put in place, it meets or exceeds standards set forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The testing program will be implemented at all our facilities and broken down into three categories:
- Strategic, always-on monitoring. Team members who have no symptoms may be selected for testing based on an algorithm-based selection process. The number tested each week will be dynamic and adjusted based on factors, such as the number of positive cases involving plant workers as well as people in the community.
- Symptomatic team members. The company conducts health screenings daily as team members arrive for work. Those found to have symptoms will be tested using CDC guidance.
- Close contacts. Team members who have come into close contact with co-workers (or non-Tyson personnel in the workplace) who have symptoms or have tested positive will be tested according to CDC guidance.
“By using data science to test a statistically sound sample of team members, we have a better chance of staying ahead of any potential virus spread and protecting our teams and communities,” said Donnie King, Tyson Foods group president and chief administrative officer. “We’ve been piloting this program at several of our facilities and have seen great success. Our team members tell us they feel especially supported by this scientifically sound combination of testing and monitoring.”
Medical experts believe this monitoring approach is the best way to screen for COVID-19 in an ongoing way that helps determine the prevalence of the virus and how to keep it under control. It will especially be helpful in identifying team members who have the virus but are not showing any 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.”
This new path forward also includes a commitment to expand our occupational health staff and adding a new chief medical officer position. We plan to bring on nearly 200 nurses and administrative support personnel to supplement the more than 400 people who are currently part of our health services team.
These additional nurses will conduct the on-site testing and assist with case management, coordinating treatment for team members who contract the virus.
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International President Marc Perrone says he welcomes this important step by Tyson Foods to strengthen COVID monitoring across the industry.
“UFCW is urging all companies in the industry to follow Tyson’s lead and take immediate action to expand COVID monitoring as we work to flatten the curve,” he said. “Together, we will continue to look for new and better ways to protect the health and safety of the brave frontline workers who are so important to the nation’s food production system.”
We believe the combination of this new, industry-leading COVID-19 testing protocol and additional medical personnel on staff allows us to provide the upmost care for our team members in the months to come.
They are giving their best, and they deserve our best in return, and that starts with a workplace that not only protects but promotes their health.