Fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pile up on Tyson Foods' (NYSE:TSN) plate after tests last week showed 555 employees at the company's Storm Lake, Iowa, pork packing facility are infected with the novel coronavirus. The highly infectious virus is now confirmed to be present in at least 22% of employees at the facility, coming hard on the heels of other recent outbreaks.
Clusters of infection have appeared at meatpacking plants across the country, even in remote rural areas where the general infection rate from the pandemic is believed to be extremely low. The crowded working conditions at meatpacking facilities help explain the phenomenon. Other factors also play a role, as Dr. Lisa Gralinski of the University of North Carolina's school of public health describes: "The cold air is going to be very conducive to keeping the virus viable for longer, so it's just kind of a bad situation."
According to an article posted on Tyson's blog, The Feed, one of the company's responses is introducing a new role, "Social Distancing Monitor." According to one of these monitors, Maddie Nguyen, these personnel provide education on safety measures to employees, make sure workers are keeping proper distance from each other, and check on correct wearing of face coverings.
Nguyen states: "Everyone I encounter during my daily walk-arounds appreciates the nod of reassurance I give them letting them know they are doing everything right. They know I've got their back."
As a result of the company's troubles, Argus Research downgraded Tyson's stock last Friday, giving it a "hold" rating in place of its previous "buy." The firm expects a long-term rebound post-pandemic, however.