As multiple pork processing facilities across the country shutter due to an increasing number of coronavirus outbreaks among workers, poultry plants may be next. 

A poultry processing plant in southwest Georgia has reported four employee fatalities as a result of coronavirus infections, according to the Associated Press (AP). 

The owner of the chicken processing plant is Tyson Foods, which recently closed its pork processing facility in Columbus Junction, Iowa, after multiple employees contracted the novel virus. 

Earlier this week, two workers from the Columbus Junction facility died from complications with the virus. 

Company spokesman Gary Mickelson told AP that three of the employees worked directly in the facility in Camilla, Ga., and the fourth employee worked in a supporting role outside the plant. 

He did not say how many employees total have tested positive for the coronavirus.

“We realize everyone is anxious during this challenging time and believe information is the best tool for combating the virus,” Senior Vice President of Human Resources Hector Gonzalez for Tyson Foods reportedly said in a statement. “That’s why we’re encouraging our team members to share their concerns with us, so we can help address them.”

The company told AP that they have implemented new safety procedures in the Camilla location, including taking employees’ temperatures and requiring face coverings during work. 

The union representing 2,000 workers at the Camilla plant, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said that many other employees are “sick or in quarantine.” 

AP notes that the union has further asked poultry plants to require employees to quarantine themselves for the standard 14 days and pay them sick leave when exposed to coworkers who tested positive for the coronavirus. 

It also called for facilities to be shut down for 72 hours for mandatory cleanings if an employee tests positive. 

Aside from Tyson Foods, pork industry leader Smithfield Foods shut down its large Sioux Falls plant location due to coronavirus concerns. 

Published on Apr 17, 2020