Tyson Foods said Thursday (June 11) it has completed COVID-19 testing at its large Berry Street poultry slaughter and processing facility in Springdale. Of the 1,102 employees tested, 199 were positive, only one of which displayed symptoms.
Tyson said the other 198 positive cases were asymptomatic and would not have identified without the test.
This is in addition to 48 positive cases identified at the facility by the Arkansas Department of Health or by employees seeking care through their own healthcare providers.
“At at Berry Street, we are routinely finding high levels of asymptomatic positives when we conduct large-scale testing at our facilities and because of that, we can do a public service by sharing the results with the local community,” said Tom Brower, senior vice president of health and safety for Tyson Foods. “Conducting large-scale testing and disclosing the results goes a long way toward controlling the spread of the virus.”
Springdale-based Tyson said employees who test positive for COVID-19 received paid leave during the quarantine period required by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and may return to work only when they have met the criteria established by the CDC and Tyson Foods.
The Berry Street facility is among more than 40 U.S. production facilities where Tyson is testing employees in partnership with Matrix Medical. Tyson is also working with Axiom Medical to track the symptoms of employees who test positive.
Tyson is conducting facility-wide testing for COVID-19 at processing facilities and other operations in Benton and Washington Counties, where positive cases of the coronavirus have risen. Gov. Asa Hutchinson reported Thursday (June 11) during his daily COVID-19 briefing that Washington County had 143 new cases, 32.2% of the 444 new community cases reported statewide in the previous 24 hours. Of the Washington County cases, 93% were from Springdale. Neighboring Benton County had 78 new cases, with the two counties accounting for 49.7% of all new reported statewide cases.
The company said it will disclose test results, as it did with the Berry Street facility, as part of an effort to help communities where it operates better understand the virus and the protective measures that can be taken to help prevent its spread.
“Tyson Foods has been part of the fabric of Arkansas since 1935, and we are grateful they have taken the proactive step of conducting testing in the Northwest region and disclosing the results. We are proud to collaborate with Tyson, and their leadership will help us better understand the impact of COVID-19 in our community and how best to protect the residents of Benton and Washington counties,” said Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse.
In recent weeks Tyson has implemented protective steps that meet or exceed CDC and OSHA guidelines for preventing COVID-19. The protocol includes screening employees before each shift and providing mandatory protective face masks and enforcing social distancing guidelines that include physical barriers between workstations and in the break rooms. Matt Evans, the complex manager at the Berry Street facility, said the health and safety of employees is Tyson’s top priority and testing is among the many actions the meat giant is taking to ensure employee protection.