COVID-19 outbreak at Tyson Food plant in Wilkesboro has employees concerned

WILKES COUNTY, N.C. — Channel 9 has learned that a Tyson Foods plant in Wilkesboro is battling a COVID-19 outbreak and is going to be testing thousands of employees.

Outbreaks at poultry plants across the country have been sickening workers, halting production and limiting meat supply.

Workers told Channel 9′s Dave Faherty that they are concerned about their safety but they also want to keep working.

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Parker Martin, who is an employee at the facility, said he puts two masks and the bandanna over his face before stepping into the Tyson chicken processing plant. He said the company is also looking out for the more than 2,000 workers there.

“There’s hand sanitizer. They have masks and they temp us every morning. I’ll still have that fear factor going on but I got to work, you know," said Martin.

The town of Wilkesboro said the plant has had a significant outbreak of coronavirus cases. Officials aren’t releasing exact numbers but said the cases in the county have doubled in the last week. They are working with Tyson to help keep the plant open.

“We are concerned about the food production coming out of that plant. The president has mandated that that plant stays open. And so it’s our job to work with them and local officials to make sure the plant is safe as possible," said Ken Noland, town manager.

Noland said Tyson spend thousands of dollars to install infrared scanners as workers arrive at the plant and built partitions in break rooms to encourage social distancing.

Employee Ellen McDonald said each worker is given masks and plastic partitions surround employees while on the production line. She is glad to see the safety measures but admits she is still worried.

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“Yes I am a little bit. I am. But we have to do it because we work in foods. So I’m still in there," said McDonald.

Channel 9 was told the Wilkes County Health Department will be at the plant Friday morning to do testing. Right now they have 200 tests they will be giving to workers over the next several days.

Tyson said it’s already been taking workers’ temperatures, obtaining face masks and requiring them to be worn. They also have been deep cleaning and implementing social distancing measures.