CORONAVIRUS

Tyson shuts Columbus Junction pork plant after dozens of coronavirus cases reported

Tyson Foods headquarters in Springdale, Ark. (Associated Press)
Tyson Foods headquarters in Springdale, Ark. (Associated Press)

Tyson Foods said on Monday it had suspended operations at its Columbus Junction pork plant after more than two dozen cases of COVID-19 were reported among employees at that facility.

“In an effort to minimize the impact on our overall production, we’re diverting the livestock supply originally scheduled for delivery to Columbus Junction to some of our other pork plants in the region,” the company’s CEO, CEO Noel White, said on its website.

White said the Springdale, Ark., company is taking the temperature of workers at all locations before they enter the facilities.

“We’re mostly using temporal thermometers, but at a few locations we’re beginning to implement infrared temperature scanners,” he said. “In addition, we’ve stepped up deep cleaning and sanitizing of our facilities, especially in employee break rooms, locker rooms and other areas, to protect our team members.”

That additional cleaning, he said, “sometimes requires suspending at least one day of production.”

The Columbus Junction plant recorded some 1,400 employees as of 2018.

In detailing steps the company has been taking to protect workers’ health, White said, “We’re working to secure an adequate supply of protective face coverings for production workers and have implemented interim protocols for temporary protective coverings, while observing food safety.

“We continue to explore and implement additional ways to promote more social distancing in our plants. This includes erecting dividers between workstations or increasing the space between workers on the production floor, which can involve slowing production lines. We’re also creating more room in non-production areas. For example, at some locations, we’ve set up tents to create outdoor break rooms.”

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