Tyson Publishes Report From Expert Panel on COVID

Oct. 20, 2020
The food company's blue-ribbon panel examines response to the disease so far and what can be done going forward.

Tyson Foods published a 10-page report on October 20 on how workplaces can deal with COVID-19, keeping employees safe and maintaining a reliable food supply. It's the result of a scientific working group Tyson convened in August "to examine what we have learned about this powerful disease."

Members were: Dr. David Acheson, former associate commissioner for foods at the FDA and now head of The Acheson Group; Dr. Daniel Castillo of Matrix Medical Network; Dr. Scott Cherry of Axiom Medical Consulting; Dr. Harry Hull, formerly with the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization and State of Minnesota Epidemiology and Infectious Disease Specialist; and Dr. Margje (Marthe) Haverkamp of Alvarez & Marsal.

The resulting report was titled "Promoting workplace safety in the era of COVID-19: Keeping employees, their families and communities healthy and safe."

"The fragmented nature of the U.S. healthcare system has not made our response easy, and the lack of coordination and competition between government institutions and private entities for scarce resources has been highly challenging," it begins.

"This is why Tyson Foods, which has been at the forefront of these issues, enlisted expertise from across the healthcare spectrum, from organizational medicine specialists, to virologists, immunologists, leaders in infectious disease and epidemiologists, to work urgently to help protect its employees and safeguard the part of the global protein supply it manages."

But it's not Tyson PR. "Tyson believes it is equally critical to share what it has learned and continue to support the collective growth in understanding of how to manage and ultimately defeat this deadly threat."

Some of those learnings:

  • Testing and Tracing: "It remains critical and, to some degree, the most controversial aspect of the battle against COVID-19."
  • Testing Sensitivity/Specificity: "A complicating feature of the testing landscape has been the emergence of faster, high throughput, testing technologies. While they suffer from lower sensitivity than rt-pcr-based tests, this shouldn't present a problem now that testing levels have risen to the point where false negatives can be corrected in repeat testing."
  • Testing in the Workplace & Communities: "The level of community testing in some regions has been markedly lower than testing in workplaces, creating a misleading picture of the possible sources of spread. The scientific working group also pointed to the fact that the level of testing is of little significance without a consistent plan for how to handle people who test positive for COVID-19."
  • Vaccination in the Workplace: "The availability of an effective vaccine providing immunity against sarscov-2 will have a significant impact on workplaces with dense working conditions but is not, by itself, a silver bullet. All of the current protective measures -- social distancing, screens, masks and shields, airflow management -- will still be required."
  • Mobilizing Private and Public Partnerships: "The unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed, as nothing previously, the gaps in our ability to orchestrate an integrated response from public and private entities. The lack of coordination and information sharing between companies and county, state and federal officials that afflicted the early response has taught an important lesson that productive engagement needs to be put in place prior to the next wave of COVID-19 or a new pandemic."
  • Education & Behavior Change: "The risks of infection are present both inside and outside the work environment, so no matter how effective the educational materials are or how frequently safe behaviors in the workplace are reinforced, if employees don't carry safe behaviors into the rest of their lives, workplace education can achieve little."
  • Future Research Needed: "As the panel made clear, there is an enormous number of unanswered questions about COVID-19, notwithstanding the immense level of effort around the world to get the right answers. Panelists emphasized that it is critically important to ensure that further research be done not just in the lab, but in real-world settings, such as industrial facilities, especially in those in which work is being done in confined quarters."
  • Conclusions: "As several members of the panel observed, we should not have been surprised by the arrival of sars-cov-2 and we should assume that it will not be the last virus to make the leap from wild animals to human beings.

"Only time will tell whether this virus fades away or becomes, once an effective vaccine is in use, a regular threat to manage such as measles or influenza. Regardless of the path it chooses, it is clear from our experience with the pandemic so far that commercial organizations, no less than public entities, need to be actively engaged seeking better insights about the way the virus works and finding innovative ways on how to handle the pandemic in the workplace and in the community."

As we said, it's 10 pages long, a pretty exhaustive report, and we can't do it justice here. Read it for yourself here.