Tyson Fresh Meats Inc., the beef and pork subsidiary of Tyson Foods Inc., announced May 5 that it is resuming limited production at its Pasco, Wash., beef facility. The facility, which can process 2,200 head per day, temporarily idled operations on April 23 to test its team members for COVID-19.
Team members were asked to self-isolate until their results returned, and the company worked with local health officials to verify test results, which were communicated to team members. Team members who tested positive will only return to work once they have met the criteria outlined by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention for employees safely returning to work. Team members who have not been tested will be unable to return to work, and all new hires will be tested prior to starting work.
“The health and safety of our team members is our top priority,” said Shane Miller, senior vice president and general manger beef enterprise. “While the plant was idle, we performed a deep clean and sanitization of the facility and took proactive steps to complement our existing prevention efforts. Information is the best tool to fight COVID-19, and we’re focused on further educating our team members about CDC guidance to prevent spreading the virus. We have a diverse workforce and will provide this education in all languages spoken among our team members.”
Team members returning to work May 5 will begin their shift with a facility tour to see the changes made to promote social distancing and additional protective measures that follow CDC and Occupational Safety & Health Administration guidance for meat and poultry processing workers and employers. These include:
- Using infrared thermometers to check the temperature of team members before they enter company facilities;
- Supplying protective facial coverings to every team member and requiring that they are utilized;
- Requiring the use of face shields for team members where workstation barriers can’t physically be implemented;
- Wellness checks to screen for symptoms, such as coughing and shortness of breath, and
- Stationing additional dedicated social distance monitors throughout the facility during all shifts to ensure that team members are adhering to safety protocols and social distancing requirements.
Tyson has also partnered with Matrix Medical Network, a leading medical clinical services company, to provide a mobile health clinic at the Pasco facility. The mobile clinic will provide community-based health services, including diagnostic testing for COVID-19, daily on-site clinical screenings, access to nurse practitioners and employee education and support for personal health goals or concerns. Matrix Medical is also assisting with the environmental design of the facility to mitigate the risk of community spread.
The company doubled the amount of “thank you” bonus for its frontline workers, and team members who cannot come to work because of illness or child care issues related to COVID-19 will continue to qualify. Tyson also increased short-term disability coverage to 90% of normal pay until June 30 to encourage team members to stay home when they are sick.
“We would like to thank Tyson for continuing to take these measures seriously and putting the safety and welfare of their employees first,” said Meghan DeBolt, director of the Walla Walla (Wash.) County Department of Community Health. “We would also like to thank our Department of Community Health team and Providence St. Mary Medical Center for helping test such a large number of Tyson employees quickly and efficiently. This was a huge team effort by everyone and a testament to the readiness of Walla Walla County to respond to a COVID-19 outbreak.”