ENID, Okla. — Tyson Foods is continuing its production in Enid amid the coronavirus pandemic, while taking extra steps to protect both employees and its products, company sources told the News & Eagle Thursday.
Tyson Foods CEO Noel White issued a statement Monday, saying efforts were underway at all Tyson Foods facilities to address COVID-19 risks.
“We’re working hard to protect our team members during this ever-changing situation,” White wrote, “while also ensuring we continue fulfilling our critical role of helping feed people across the country.”
According to information provided by Tyson, in mid-2019 the company employed more than 1,400 people at its Enid facilities, and about 3,500 throughout Oklahoma. Tyson Foods acquired AdvancePierre Foods in a $4.2 billion deal reached in April 2017.
Workers in Enid remain on the production line. But, COVID-19 has impacted operations in some other facilities, White said.
“Our meat and poultry plants are experiencing varying levels of production impact, due to the planned implementation of additional worker safety precautions and worker absenteeism,” he wrote. “For example, out of an abundance of caution, we have suspended operations at our Columbus Junction, Iowa, pork plant this week due to more than two dozen cases of COVID-19 involving team members at the facility.”
Company-wide, Tyson Foods has been taking the temperature of workers before they enter company facilities, in an effort to prevent sick workers from entering the production area.
Worth Sparkman, senior manager of public relations for Tyson Foods, said the company is taking precautions in Enid to prevent the virus from negatively impacting production, and the workforce.
“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,” Sparkman wrote in a statement to the News & Eagle.
Production lines may be slowed somewhat, Sparkman said, due to efforts to space out workers and maintain CDC and industry standards for social distance during the pandemic.
“We’ve been evaluating and implementing ways to promote more social distancing in our plants,” Sparkman wrote.
Those steps have included staggering shifts, to reduce worker interaction; spacing out chairs in break rooms and other areas; eliminating conference room meetings; and limiting the size of orientation classes for new employees.
Extra measures also are in place, Sparkman said, to sanitize production areas, above and beyond normal industry standards.
“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 break rooms, locker rooms and other areas to protect our team members,” Sparkman wrote. “We have team members dedicated to constantly wiping down and sanitizing common areas.”
If the extra steps require extra time and slow production, Sparkman said the company is taking the extra time.
“In some cases, this additional cleaning involves suspending a day of production,” he wrote.
In his Monday statement, White said the company is working to overcome the hurdles of mass production during a pandemic.
“While these are challenging times,” White wrote, “we remain committed to protecting our people while continuing to meet the needs of our customers and consumers across America.”