90 workers test positive for COVID-19 at Tyson Foods plant in Tennessee

About 90 employees at a Tyson Foods plant in Tennessee tested positive for the novel coronavirus, public health officials said.

The Metro Public Health Department said it was investigating a cluster of COVID-19 cases associated with the Tyson plant in Goodlettsville, located about 16 miles northeast of Nashville. There are about 1,600 employees at the plant, officials said.

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One of the world’s largest food companies, Tyson Foods, Inc. is the parent company of brands like Tyson, Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm and Ball Park. Its Goodlettsville plant produces case-ready beef and pork products for grocery stores and other retailers, according to the Tennessean.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Tennessee Department of Health and MPHD are working directly with Tyson officials on the steps to mitigate the threat of the disease as part of plant operations,” the health department said in a provided statement.

“MPHD will continue to monitor confirmed cases and close contacts among Davidson County residents. Cases that who are residents of other counties will be monitored by the health departments where they live.”

Tyson Foods did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement released Friday regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Tyson Foods did not specifically address the reported cases at its Goodlettsville plant but said it has implemented several protective measures at its facilities to keep employees safe — including taking workers’ temperatures, requiring protective face coverings and doing additional cleaning and sanitizing.

The company said it has also installed workstation dividers and provided more break room space.

“We’re extremely grateful for the work our team members are doing and for the role they play in the critical supply chain that extends from farm to fork,” Tyson Foods Senior Vice President Hector Gonzalez said in part. 

“We’ve restricted visitor access and have encouraged our team members repeatedly to stay home if they don’t feel well. This is an ever-changing situation and we are committed to exploring every way possible for keeping our team members safe.”

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For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

One of the best ways to prevent spread of the virus is washing your hands with soap and water. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends first washing with warm or cold water and then lathering soap for 20 seconds to get it on the backs of hands, between fingers and under fingernails before rinsing off.

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This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.