Four weeks ago, the Tyson Foods plant in Sherman, Texas had seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 among workers. According to a report from NBC, the Sherman Tyson Foods plant has now had at least 220 workers test positive for the virus.
Across the country, plants owned by Tyson, JBS, and other food processing companies have been at the center of COVID-19 outbreaks. The proximity of workers on the floor, shared equipment, and other qualities have made meatpacking plants a prime location for the coronavirus transmission.
About the Tyson Foods Sherman, TX COVID-19 Outbreak
In total, over 1600 workers from the Sherman Tyson Food plant were tested for the virus. The mass testing came weeks after several workers from the facility had already tested positive for the virus. In addition to the 220 positive test results, 3 tests were inconclusive.
According to Grayson County Judge Bill Magers, there were 7 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the massive plant that over 1,750 people work at.
Notably, many of the workers do not live in Grayson County, the county that the plant operates in. According to NBC, 97 of those who tested positive for the virus live in Grayson County. The rest of the workers who tested positive for coronavirus live in surrounding counties. Some live as far away as Dallas County.
Did Tyson Foods Do Enough to Protect Workers?
Judge Magers praised Tyson for “taking the steps they need to take as a business to keep their employees safe.” He added that the company needs to stay open because of the integral role they play in the food production chain.
Other critics are less forgiving of Tyson. First, they point out that Tyson and other major food companies have helped create the meat shortage that they’ve promised would happen if they don’t stay open. Tyson, JBS, and Cargill Inc. control nearly two-thirds of America’s beef, pork, and chicken supply. They argue that the failure of these major companies to protect workers during the earliest stages of the COVID-19 pandemic has produced the issues the companies are using to continue placing workers at risk.
Meanwhile, some health experts have speculated that the coronavirus thrives in cool environments, such as the ones found in massive refrigerated meatpacking facilities. While this theory needs to be explored more thoroughly, the outbreaks in meatpacking plants across the nation lend support to it. Just three companies account for more than 11,000 coronavirus cases in the United States.