Coronavirus pressure mounts on Tyson Foods after hundreds more workers test positive

Tyson is revealing its plants' case counts to help affected communities 'better understand' the virus

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More than 200 workers at a Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Madison, Nebraska, tested positive for the novel coronavirus after facility-wide testing from May 1 to May 4, the company said this week.

The Madison plant employs 1,467 workers and contractors, meaning that about 14 percent of the workforce contracted the virus. Madison County had 265 coronavirus cases in total as of Monday.


Tyson is revealing its plants' case counts to help affected communities "better understand" the virus and how it spreads, the company said. The Madison plant was idled for sanitization while employees were tested.

“Tyson is the largest food company in the United States, and we are embracing our responsibility to lead during this unprecedented time,” Steve Stouffer, group president of Tyson Fresh Meats, said in a statement. “We will continue to ensure that we are at the forefront of the industry when it comes to safety, exploring new ways to keep our team members healthy and protect our communities as we work to keep food on America’s tables.”

In this April 2020, photo provided by Tyson Foods, workers wear protective masks and stand between plastic dividers at the company's Camilla, Georgia poultry processing plant. (Tyson Foods via AP)

Tyson is ramping up its response to workers contracting the virus and is trying out advanced testing capabilities and enhanced on-site health care at plants. The company also bumped up short-term disability coverage to 90 percent of normal pay until June 30 "to encourage team members to stay home when they are sick," it said.

COVID-19 has infected workers at 115 meat and poultry processing facilities in 19 states, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the roughly 130,000 employees at the plants, more than 4,900 workers contracted the virus, and at least 20 have died.

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TSN TYSON FOODS INC. 53.39 +0.17 +0.32%

Worker absenteeism and even forced plant closures caused the meat industry to warn of possible shortages as supermarkets limited customers' meat purchases to prevent panic buying.