Coronavirus outbreak causes Tyson Foods to close NC plant for cleaning

Many supermarkets are limiting customers' fresh meat purchases amid pressure on meat supply chain

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Tyson Foods is briefly shuttering a Wilkesboro, North Carolina, plant experiencing a coronavirus outbreak as the company begins reopening some of its hard-hit plants in the West and Midwest.

Tyson is closing the fresh meat plant from Saturday through Monday for "deep cleaning and sanitizing," a Tyson spokesperson told FOX Business. Tyson's food service plant, also in Wilkesboro, is not affected, the spokesperson said.

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Wilkes County, home to the plants, has 194 COVID-19 cases, with a "majority" linked to the Tyson plant, according to a Friday press release.

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"The Wilkes County Health Department went onsite at Tyson to conduct 200 COVID-19 tests," the county said. "They had 39 positive tests out of the 200 which is 19%."

Wilkesboro, N.C., Oct. 19, 2019: Tyson Foods, Inc., a poultry and poultry products plant. (iStock)

The Tyson spokesperson said the company is not sharing the number of cases at the plant.

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"Since this is a fluid, ever-changing situation, we’re not sharing specific numbers," the spokesperson said. "Team members who test positive will only return to work when they have met criteria outlined by the CDC. ... The plant will resume operations Tuesday."

Coronavirus has infected workers at 115 meat and poultry processing plants in 19 states, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. More than 4,900 workers contracted the virus, and 20 have died.

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Many supermarkets throughout the nation are limiting the amount of fresh meat customers can purchase at one time amid fears of panic buying and stressed food supply chains.

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