SPRINGDALE, Ark. (WFIE) - Tyson Foods officials announced Thursday that they are launching a new COVID-19 monitoring program and is expanding its occupational health staff, including a new chief medical officer position.
They say the new program comes as part of the company’s commitment to team member safety and continually evolving efforts to protect their workers from COVID-19.
Back in April, the Green River District Health Department reported several employees at the Tyson plant in Henderson County had tested positive for the coronavirus.
According to company officials, the new coronavirus monitoring strategy was designed with the help of outside medical experts. They say the strategy includes ongoing, data-driven COVID-19 testing of workers without symptoms, as well as those who have certain symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has the virus.
The testing program includes 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.
The new monitoring strategy Tyson Foods is implementing was designed with input from Matrix Medical and is consistent with CDC guidance.
“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, which has assisted in the development of the advanced testing protocols. “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.”
To support the effort, officials at Tyson Foods say they created a chief medical officer position and plans to add almost 200 nurses and administrative support personnel to supplement the more than 400 people currently part of the company’s health services team. They say the additional nurses will conduct the on-site testing and assist with case management, coordinating treatment for team members who contract the virus.
Company leaders say worker health and safety is Tyson Foods’ top priority.
They say the company formed a coronavirus task force in January and has since transformed its food production facilities with protective measures, from symptom screenings and face masks, to workstation dividers and social distance monitors.