Tyson Foods has deployed infection tracking algorithms and a “watchdog testing” program at its meat packing facilities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, WSJ reported.
The Arkansas-based company is concerned about a second and third wave of the viral pandemic, investing money in protective gear and advanced technology to reduce the spread of the virus among its workers.
“Everyone is concerned about a second or third wave,” Tyson general manager Dean Banks said in an interview.
Widespread viral outbreaks among workers in the U.S. meat-packing industry in April (see: here and here) forced some companies to close their production lines. According to the CDC, as many as 16,000 workers have been infected and 86 have died from the virus. In late spring, the closure of some meat packing plants created chaos for farmers, many of whom had to slaughter thousands of animals. The crisis continued up the chain to supermarkets, where some experienced shortages of meat products or had to limit their purchases, which ultimately led to soaring meat prices.
Banks said Tyson’s new infection tracking algorithms allowed him to monitor internal test results through a dashboard. To make this possible, Tyson launched a weekly “watchdog testing” program in July that tests employees at each production site.
The surveillance system compares employees’ positive tests with the tasks they perform in the factory and official infection rates in their local community.
“We can dial in the algorithm when we sense there’s something going on in the community, and we’re much more prepared for a second wave,” Banks said, adding that less than one percent of Tyson employees are infected with Covid-19.
Tyson is also hiring 200 new nurses and healthcare professionals for its US factories and will build seven mini-clinics near the factories that will provide health care to employees.
It comes as workers’ advocacy groups have complained that the company is not doing enough to keep them safe. It also comes as the United States reported a total of 11 million cases over the weekend. Last week there were around ten million cases. The rapid increase in positive cases began to accelerate across much of the country in October.
Tyson could also turn to slaughterhouse robots if he really wants to eliminate the virus in his production plants.
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