American food products manufacturer Tyson Foods announced the debut of a new COVID-19 monitoring program on Thursday and revealed plans to hire additional occupational health staff as part of its ongoing effort to protect its workers during the pandemic.
“We believe that 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,” Donnie King, Tyson Foods group president and chief administrative officer, said in a company release. “Adding more resources and technologies reinforces our commitment to protecting our team members, their families, and plant communities.”
Clinical services firm Matrix Medical Network is working with Tyson to design and implement the new program. Under the scheme, the company will test thousands of its employees each week at all of its facilities.
Tyson has tested about a third of its workforce for COVID-19 during the pandemic. Less than 1% of its 120,000 employees have active coronavirus cases, according to the company.
“What we’re adopting is a strategic, ongoing approach to combatting COVID-19,” King said. “It involves weekly testing of team members at our facilities to monitor for the presence of the virus. By using data science to test a statistically sound sample of team members, we have a better chance of staying ahead of any potential virus spread and protecting our teams and communities.”
While American protein companies have come under fire during the coronavirus crisis for the high numbers of infections among workers in meat processing operations, a union official voice support for the move in the company’s release.
“As the largest union for America’s meatpacking workers, we welcome this important step by Tyson Foods, which demonstrates the leadership needed to strengthen COVID monitoring across the industry,” United Food and Commercial Workers (WFCW) International President Mark Perrone said. “UFCW is urging all companies in the industry to follow Tyson’s lead and take immediate action to expand COVID monitoring as we work to flatten the curve.”
Tyson also created a Chief Medical Officer role in its organization to support the new program.