By Keri Brown
Meat processing plants across the country are struggling with outbreaks of the coronavirus. That includes the Tyson Foods chicken processing facility.Click here to see more...
More than 2,200 workers were tested at the Wilkesboro plant and 570 were positive for the coronavirus. Tyson said a majority of the workers who had the virus didn't show any symptoms.
The outbreaks have happened despite Tyson temporarily closing parts of the facility for deep cleaning and worker absences related to quarantines and other factors. The company says it plans to ramp up operations again this week.
Ken Noland is the town manager of Wilkesboro. He said local officials are doing all they can in a difficult situation.
"The hard part is it's a balancing act. We're trying to protect the community, we're trying to protect the Tyson team members but we are also under the mandate for the federal government to do everything we can to keep that Tyson plant operating to provide food for the nation," said Noland.
This is the second time this month the plant has temporarily halted operations. It was closed for cleaning earlier this month after a suspected outbreak. Previously, the Wilkes County Health Department tested 200 workers on site, and 39 were positive for the virus. Tyson also tested hundreds of employees on site and didn't release those results until yesterday.
The company says several new safety measures have been put in place at the Wilkesboro site. Those include plastic dividers between workstations, daily temperature checks with thermal scans, even tents outside for more break room social distancing space. But some of these measures were already in place and didn't stop this latest outbreak.
Labor advocates say the industry isn't doing enough to protect workers in these kinds of facilities and many employees aren't confident in these protections to come back to work.