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Tyson Foods: 13% of Tested Workers in Northwest Arkansas Positive for COVID-19

2 min read

Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale said Friday that 13% of its workers who were tested at northwest Arkansas production facilities tested positive for COVID-19.

Tyson (NYSE: TSN) said it tested 3,748 workers at 7 facilities between June 4 and June 13. Of the 481 employees who tested positive, 455 had shown no symptoms of the virus.

Another 212 employees have also tested positive through the Department of Health or personal health care physicians. Tyson has partnered with mobile health care services company Matrix Medical to conduct testing at its approximately 40 production facilities nationwide.

NPR reported on Sunday that, in response to the test results, China suspended poultry imports from Tyson’s Berry Street plant in Springdale.

According to NPR, China’s General Administration of Customs office said shipments from the plant would be temporarily suspended, and products that have already arrived will be seized.

Tyson told NPR it was investigating reports of the suspension. It told the Associated Press that global and U.S. health organizations agree that there is no evidence to support transmission of the virus through food.

“At Tyson, our top priority is the health and safety of our team members, and we work closely with the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure that we produce all of our food in full compliance with government safety requirements,” the company said.

Arkansas has more than 14,600 cases of COVID-19 statewide, including 703 new positives Friday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said at his daily news conference update. Hutchinson said the state had conducted 5,167 virus tests in the previous 24 hours with a 6.5% positive response.

“The results across our northwest Arkansas facilities, and the country more broadly, reflect how much is still unknown about this virus, which is why Tyson is committed to providing information to our local health officials and enhanced education to our team members,” Tom Brower, Tyson Foods’ senior vice president of health and safety, said Friday. “Through our inclusive approach to large-scale testing, we are finding that a very high level of team members who test positive do not show symptoms. Identifying asymptomatic cases helps the community, since other testing is often limited to people who feel unwell.”

Local and state political and health care officials have toured Tyson’s production facilities, including the Berry Street plant and the Chick-N-Quick facility in Rogers. Testing at Berry Street revealed 227 positive results out of 1,120 tests and Chick-N-Quick had 21 positives out of 825 tests.

Tyson has had to temporarily shut down or reduce production at facilities nationally as the COVID-19 infections have swept through communities. One pork production plant that was temporarily closed in Waterloo, Iowa, processes nearly 4% of the national capacity; it shut down after 180 positive tests among its 1,800 employees.

Shortly after the Waterloo plant closed, Tyson Foods Chairman John Tyson released a statement that ran nationally saying the “food supply chain is breaking.”

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