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Plant to conduct deep clean and sanitization after team member screening for COVID-19

Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc., the beef and pork subsidiary of Tyson Foods, Inc., is currently winding down production and will temporarily pause operations Friday, May 1 through Monday, May 4 at its Dakota City, Neb., beef facility to complete a deep cleaning of the entire plant. The company has been working closely with the local health department and is also in the process of screening plant team members for COVID-19 this week, with assistance from the Nebraska National Guard.

The facility, one of the largest beef processing plant in the country, employs a workforce of 4,300 and normally produces enough beef in one day to feed 18 million people, however with increased absenteeism over the last few weeks the company has scaled back production. While the plant is temporarily idled, and in collaboration with UFCW Local 222, team members will continue to be compensated and asked to continue following CDC guidance such as social distancing, persistent hand washing and wearing of facial coverings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Team member safety has and continues to be top priority for us and we’re grateful for our team members and their critical role in helping us fulfill, to the best of our ability, our commitment to helping feed people in our community and across the nation,” said Shane Miller, senior vice president & general manager beef enterprise, Tyson Fresh Meats. “We’ve been focused on COVID-19 since January when we first formed a company coronavirus task force. Since that time, we’ve implemented numerous measures to protect workers and, at times, have gone beyond CDC guidance.”

Tyson Foods was one of the first food companies to start taking worker temperatures and has installed more than 150 infrared temperature scanners in its facilities. The company started efforts to secure a supply of facial coverings before the CDC recommended them and now requires and provides them for all team members in all facilities.

Last week a team from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, working with local health officials, toured the facility and were able to see preventive measures the company has implemented to enhance the safety of its team members.

“We have a dedicated health and safety team working with local, state and federal health officials and our facility operations team to make timely decisions about operations,” said Miller. “Our decisions on resuming operations during this challenging time will continue to be based on team member safety.”

Tyson Fresh Meats voluntarily idled its pork facilities in Waterloo and Perry, Iowa, and Logansport, Ind. and beef facility in Pasco, Wash. while team members undergo screening and plants complete deep cleaning of the facilities. The company’s other meat and poultry plants currently continue to operate, but some are running at significantly reduced levels of production due to the planned implementation of additional worker safety precautions.

New guidance by the Centers for Disease Control seeks to protect meatpacking workers from COVID-19. The meat and poultry processing workers are not exposed to the virus through the meat products they handle.

However, their work environments—processing lines and others where they have close contact with coworkers and supervisors—may contribute substantially to their potential exposures. Many meatpacking facilities across the nation have closed for short periods due to infection rates of workers at the facilities.

The CDC says meatpackers should configure work environments so that workers are spaced at least six feet apart, if possible. Additionally, facilities should use physical barriers, such as strip curtains, plexiglass or similar materials, or other dividers or partitions, to separate meat and poultry processing workers from each other, if feasible.

Further, facilities should consider consulting with a ventilation engineer to ensure adequate ventilation in work areas to minimize workers’ potential exposures. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association welcomed the response, saying the guidance protects workers, and supports the operation of beef processing plants.

Smithfield Foods in Crete, Neb., will be shuttering as COVID-19 cases continue to rise among plant workers. The plant harvests 10,000 hogs a day.  As of Sunday, there were 47 positive tests of COVID-19 at the pork processing plant.

On April 24, Smithfield announced temporary closure of their pork plant in Monmouth, Ill.

The company has been proactively and aggressively tackling COVID-19 by implementing processes, protocols and protective measures throughout its operations and remains committed to doing everything in its power to help protect its team members from COVID-19 in the workplace, Smithfield said in a statement on Friday.