Chief medical officers in high demand amid coronavirus pandemic, range of sectors seeking health expertise: report

Tyson Foods Inc. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. recently hired CMOs.

Companies are looking to bring on chief medical officers as they seek guidance in the return to work, according to a new report.

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Amid the coronavirus pandemic, businesses in a range of industries have hired new CMOs, including Tyson Foods Inc. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.

While the food processing company and the cruise line seem drastically different at first, they both depend on many employees working in close contact for prolonged periods, the outlet explained.

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Over the first few months of the pandemic, Tyson Foods facilities across the country were forced to temporarily shutter following outbreaks of COVID-19, or staffing shortages caused by the pandemic. For instance, by May 1, almost 900 workers at a Tyson Foods plant in Indiana tested positive for the virus. By May 4, there were nearly 300 cases of COVID-19 at another Tyson Foods plant in Tennessee.

Officials at Tyson have said that nearly a third of its workforce has been tested, with plans to test thousands of workers weekly across all facilities. Less than 1% of Tyson Foods' U.S. workforce of 120,000 team members has active COVID-19, according to a statement.

Tyson Foods officials say nearly a third of its workforce have been tested. Pictured is a Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo, Iowa. (REUTERS/Brenna Norman/File Photo) (Reuters)

Late last month, Tyson announced a new COVID-19 monitoring program, as well as plans to add a chief medical officer position.

“We believe launching a new, strategic approach to monitoring and adding the health staff to support it will help further our efforts to go on the offensive against the virus,” said Donnie King, Tyson Foods group president and chief administrative officer, in the statement. “Adding more resources and technologies reinforces our commitment to protecting our team members, their families and plant communities.”

Aside from the CMO, Tyson Foods plans to add nearly 200 nurses and administrative support personnel to the more than 400 people already employed with the company’s health services team.

Royal Caribbean named Dr. Calvin Johnson as global head, public health and chief medical officer late last month to “raise the bar on protecting the health of our guests,” according to Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Group, per a company press release. (Johnson joined the Healthy Sail Panel, a group helping to develop enhanced health and safety standards and achieve readiness for the return to service.)

There are still many cruise ship workers stranded around the world, unable to return to their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic and related travel restrictions. (iStock)

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Other employers, among tech businesses and schools, are reportedly turning to outside guidance, such as One Medical, for help on returning to workplaces, the WSJ reported. Dr. Andrew Diamond, CMO of One Medical, said the pandemic is widening the scope of sectors in need of health expertise.

“Every company is thinking of the health and wellness of their employees,” Dr. Ashwini Zenooz, CMO of Salesforce, told the outlet. “The role of a chief medical officer is becoming a lot more prevalent, a lot more powerful, in the business world.”

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Fox News’ David Aaro, Michael Hollan and Michael Bartiromo contributed to this report.