Tyson Foods says it plans to administer thousands of coronavirus tests per week at its U.S. facilities under an expanded effort to protect workers and keep plants running.
The Springdale, Arkansas-based company, which processes about 20% of all beef, pork and chicken in the U.S., will randomly test employees who have no symptoms, as well as those with symptoms. Workers will also be tested if they were near someone who tested positive or displayed symptoms.
The tests are on top of daily health screenings when workers arrive at Tyson's 140 U.S. production facilities, the company said Thursday.
Tyson said it will add nearly 200 nurses to its 400-person medical team to conduct the tests. It's also hiring a chief medical officer. Tyson developed the testing plan with Matrix Medical, a healthcare provider.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents 24,000 of Tyson's 120,000 U.S. workers, applauded the move and said other meat processing companies should follow Tyson's lead.
Meatpacking plants have been particularly susceptible to the coronavirus because workers often stand shoulder to shoulder carving up meat.
In the U.S. alone, at least 16,210 meatpacking workers have been infected or exposed to the virus and 93 have died, the United Food and Commercial Workers said. Last month, the families of three Tyson workers in Iowa who died from COVID-19 sued the company, saying it knowingly put employees at risk in the early days of the pandemic.