570 people test positive for COVID-19 at Wilkesboro Tyson plant

Updated: May. 20, 2020 at 8:23 PM EDT
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WILKES COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Nearly 600 people tested positive at the Wilkesboro chicken plant that previously had to scale back operations for five days as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Of 2,244 team members and contractors who work at the Tyson chicken plant who were tested for the virus, 570 tested positive, the company said in a statement.

The majority didn’t show symptoms and otherwise wouldn’t have known they were infected. The figures consist of 237 people who were tested by the Department of Health or their own health care providers. Another 2,007 were tested onsite from May 6 to May 9.

Tyson says those who test positive receive paid leave and only return to work upon meeting CDC and Tyson criteria.

“We are working closely with local health departments to protect our team members and their families, and to help manage the spread of the virus in our communities,” said Tom Brower, Senior Vice President of Health and Safety for Tyson Foods. “We are using the most up-to-date data and resources to support our team members, and we are committed to ensuring they feel safe and secure when they come to work.”

There are three plants operating within the complex and two were shut down for cleaning.

The Fresh Plant One facility was closed earlier this month for cleaning but it later reopened. Fresh Plant Two and the Foodservice Plant ceased operations for deep cleaning.

Officials with the company say that they have so many people staying home from work. Company policy has required that all those testing positive or feeling sick be isolated at home.

One worker told WBTV although she tested negative, she still worried.

“I’m afraid to go to work,” she said, and added, “You don’t know who you are working with that’s got it.”

Company officials said anyone who tests positive or has had close contact with anyone who has must go home. At the Wilkes County Health Department, officials are monitoring the situation.

Director Rachel Willard said because so many tested positive who showed no symptoms, she believes there will be a spike in local cases in the next 4 to 10 days.

That’s due to those workers who live in Wilkes County going to stores and other places, thinking there are no issues.

Willard says it should be a reminder to people to Follow CDC guidelines and wash hands, wear face masks and keep distance.

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