Tyson plant resumes limited operations after workers tested for COVID-19

Tyson Beef

WALLA WALLA, Wash. — The Tyson beef plant in Wallula resumed limited operations Tuesday after closing to have workers tested for COVID-19.

The facility shut down on April 23 after dozens of workers at the facility tested positive for the virus.

On Tuesday, Tyson Foods issued a joint statement with Walla Walla County Department of Community Health saying employees who tested negative will be heading back to work. Those who tested positive will only return to work once they have met the criteria outlined by the CDC.

Team members who have not been tested will be unable to return to work, and all new hires will be tested prior to starting work.

“The health and safety of our team members is our top priority,” said Shane Miller, senior vice president and general manger beef enterprise. “While the plant was idle, we performed a deep clean and sanitization of the facility and took proactive steps to complement our existing prevention efforts. Information is the best tool to fight COVID-19 and we’re focused on further educating our team members about CDC guidance to prevent spreading the virus. We have a diverse workforce and will provide this education in all languages spoken among our team members.”

Team members returning to work Tuesday will begin their shift with a facility tour to see the changes made to promote social distancing and additional protective measures that follow CDC and OSHA’s guidance for Meat and Poultry Processing Workers and Employers.

These changes include:

  • The use of infrared thermometers to check the temperature of team members before they enter company facilities.
  • Supplying of protective facial coverings to every team member and requiring they are utilized.
  • Required use of face shields for team members where workstation barriers can’t physically be implemented.
  • Wellness checks to screen for symptoms, such as coughing and shortness of breath.
  • Additional dedicated social distance monitors stationed throughout the facility during all shifts to ensure team members are adhering to safety protocols and social distancing requirements.

More than 200 workers at the plant tested positive for COVID-19. The Department of Community Health (DCH) is still trying to determine the exact number.