Gov. Asa Hutchinson met with a few poultry industry leaders from the Northwest Arkansas region prior to his press conference at Mercy Hospital in Rogers on Monday.
“I had a very good meeting because they have really set a national model for best practices in the poultry industry from their companies right here in Northwest Arkansas, and I want to applaud them,” Hutchinson said, noting that Tyson Foods and Simmons Foods Inc. of Siloam Springs were a model for the state and nation.
“People should feel comfortable that they working hard to keep the supply chain moving, to make sure that we have food in our grocery store, that we have protein, but also, it’s something that they are working hard to keep their workers safe and the public safe, as well, and making sure they are not contributing to the community spread,” he said.
Tyson Foods released a statement earlier today that said it will be conducting facility-wide COVID-19 testing in Benton and Washington counties.
“Our testing in other parts of the country has shown a high number of positive cases among individuals who did not show any symptoms and otherwise would not have been identified, and we can do a public service in Northwest Arkansas by testing at our facilities there as well,” Tom Brower, Tyson Foods’ senior vice president of health and safety, said in the statement.
As of June 1, the company said it was aware of 77 active cases among nearly 24,500 Arkansas employees. The employees will not return to work until they have followed guidelines from the company and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith, there have been 571 poultry workers across the state so far who tested positive for COVID-19. However, 179 have recovered and 392 are considered active cases. He noted that 73 percent of the poultry workers infected have been from the Latino communities.