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Tyson Foods doubles bonuses, increases short-term disability coverage

2 Western KY meat processing companies see large amount of COVID-19 cases
Updated: Apr. 29, 2020 at 9:32 PM CDT
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KENTUCKY (WFIE) - Two western Kentucky meat processing companies continue to face a COVID-19 outbreak in each of its facilities.

State leaders say there are nearly a combined 200 confirmed cases between Henderson’s Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms in Ohio County.

An employee spoke with us. That employee fears losing their job over sharing their concerns with us.

So for that reason, we agreed to protect the identity. They say they were blindsided by the number of confirmed cases at the facility had crossed 100.

“I’ve accepted the fact that I am in a facility with confirmed cases,” an employee said.

Perdue Farms in Cromwell Kentucky is climbing to 124 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Those numbers are coming from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Human Services.

“Appalled. Don’t want to return," an employee said. "I had no knowledge it had spiked to that extent.”

We took concerns to the county Judge-Executive David Johnston who tells us the company has many precautions in place and that the product is not affected because of sanitation measures.

Johnston also says only a small fraction of those affected employees live in Ohio County. He believes it may be spread after work because of carpooling and shared homes.

He also tells us language barries are an added obstacle.

“They’ve gone a step further. They’re educating their workers, they’re providing them with PPE,” Johnston said. "Not only when they’re working, but for when they’re home, and when they leave.

“They’re not practicing social distancing inside the facility," an employee said. "You can go at any moment whenever one of the production teams are clocking in, and they’re elbow to elbow both sides of the hallway.”

We asked if the plant had plans to shut down for a deep clean, and how do they assure the safety of employees.

Spokesperson Diana Souder says the plant undergoes full cleaning and sanitation every 24 hours.

She says they also check temperatures at the start of each shift, put up protective partitions and mandate employees to wear masks.

She added all Perdue products continue to be USDA inspected and that COVID-19 is not known to be a foodborne pathogen.

Henderson’s Tyson Foods is no stranger to the pandemic.

State leaders say its number of confirmed cases sits at least at 74.

“We have to provide food to America, however, we have to do it safely and efficiently,” an employee said.

Until then, Johnston tells me it would be up to health leaders, not the county, to enforce a temporary shut down.

According to the Henderson County Government Facebook Page, the Tyson Foods in Robards will cancel production Thursday through Sunday for additional cleaning and sanitation efforts.

This halt on production is expected to only be temporary, after President Trump ordered all meat processing plants across the country to stay open on Tuesday.

This statement was issued Monday by Ron Chapman, who oversees Tyson Foods’ plant in Robards: “The Tyson Foods Robards,...

Posted by Henderson County, Kentucky Government on Wednesday, April 29, 2020

According to the Tyson Foods website, company officials are doubling bonuses and increasing short-term disability coverage.

The website states they are implementing additional health screening measures for members.

Right now, we know they are doing several things, including taking worker temperatures and installing more than 150 infrared walk through temperature scanners.

The facility is also having employees wear face coverings and implementing social distancing measures by installing workstation dividers.

They are also providing more break room space, including outdoor tents.

And something else they are doing is requesting more face masks for the team members, when the current supply runs out.

The company says they are moving up the first $500 bonus payment to early May. They say the second $500 bonus will arrive in July.

Tyson Foods officials say team members who cannot come to work due to an illness or childcare will continue to qualify, but bonus eligibility will depend on attendance.

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