Major food company Tyson Foods (NYSE:TSN) responded today to the COVID-19 outbreaks at various companies' meatpacking plants earlier in the year with the creation of a new executive post -- chief medical officer (CMO). The pork and chicken giant says the CMO will be responsible for organizing measures to protect the health and safety of both workers at Tyson plants and the towns where those facilities are located. Dr. Claudia Coplein was named to the post.
Tyson, still dealing with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, also said it is following up on "the launch of Marathon Health clinics that will be piloted in seven of the company's plant communities." The new CMO will "oversee" these clinics as part of her duties.
The move comes shortly after a National Academy of Sciences research paper linked meatpacking plants significantly to the pandemic's spread. According to the study, densely packed workers, cold temperatures, and high humidity in the plants made them important nodes of the disease's advance. The authors claim meatpacking plants were responsible for 6% to 8% of all COVID-19 cases in America, and 3% to 4% of all deaths.
The study also "found evidence of a relationship between livestock plants and increased COVID-19 case rates up to 150 km away from a plant, further supporting the notion of community spread beyond the immediate work context." This connection may underlie Tyson's focus on the new CMO's role in running factory-town clinics.
Tyson recently reported a profitable quarter outpacing analyst estimates. The company points out it "invested $540 million to transform its U.S. facilities with protective measures" and hired Dr. Coplein based on her 20 years of medical executive experience. She will take up her new post on Jan. 4, 2021.