NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Metro health officials said around 120 workers at the Tyson Foods plant in Goodlettsville have tested positive for COVID-19.
A Metro Nashville Health Department spokesperson told News4 there are about 120 cases that are making up the cluster at the Tyson Food plant. The plant itself has about 1,600 employees.
The Metro Public Health Department estimates among the employees who tested positive that 60 reside in Davidson County and 30 reside in other counties.
Metro Public Health is conducting contact tracing among the confirmed cases of Davidson County residents. Plant employees who are residents of other counties will be monitored by the health departments where they live.
On Wednesday afternoon, Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said there was a new cluster of positive cases at a Tyson Food plant, this one coming out of Shelbyville.
Tyson Foods issued a statement concerning the coronavirus cases at the Goodlettsville facility:
"We’ve had some team members test positive for COVID-19 and in each case we’re following guidance and requirements from the CDC, the U.S. Department of Health, the relevant local health department, and the USDA.
"If there is a confirmed case at one of our locations, as part of our protocol and in collaboration with health officials, we notify anyone who has been in close contact with the person. We also inform team members who have not been exposed and provide information to our supervisors so they can help answer questions.
"In Goodlettsville, we’ve been in communication with the Metro Public Health Department throughout this pandemic and to our knowledge the agency has been satisfied with the measures we have in place.
"We’re working hard to protect our team members during this ever-changing situation, while also ensuring we continue fulfilling our critical role of helping feed people across the country. Measures we’re taking in our facilities to address COVID-19 include the following:
- We’re restricting visitor access to our facilities and have relaxed attendance policy to reinforce the importance of staying home when sick or to meet childcare needs.
- We’ve implemented the use of temporal thermometers to check the temperature of team members before they enter company facilities. We’ve purchased more than 150 infrared temperature scanners and, so far, have installed them at four facilities. We expect that eventually every one of our food production facilities will have at least one of these walk-through temperature scanners in place.
- We’re also coordinating with federal agencies to emphasize the need for personal protective equipment to support our team members as we remain open. We’re working to secure a supply of protective face coverings for production workers and implementing interim protocols for homemade protective coverings, while observing food safety.
- We’re implementing social distancing in our plants based on CDC and industry guidance, such as increasing the distance between workers on the production floor, installing workstation dividers and barriers in our breakrooms (example photos are attached).
- We’ve been evaluating and implementing ways to promote more social distancing in our plants. For example, at some locations we’re:
- Allowing more time between shifts to reduce worker interaction.
- Giving team members more space by erecting large tents to serve as outdoor break rooms.
- Removing chairs in some break rooms so there is more space between the workers.
- Eliminating conference room meetings and the size of new orientation classes.
"Our plant production areas are sanitized daily to ensure food safety, and we have stepped up deep cleaning and sanitizing of our facilities, especially in employee breakrooms, locker rooms and other areas to protect our team members. We have team members dedicated to constantly wiping down and sanitizing common areas. In some cases, this additional cleaning involves suspending a day of production."
Tyson Foods also told News4 that COVID-19 is not a food safety concern:
"COVID-19 is not considered a food safety concern. The CDC says 'currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food.' USDA reports “There is no evidence at this time to suggest that the Coronavirus is a foodborne pathogen.” According to a statement from the FDA, “we are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging."