Tyson employees fear virus will continue to spread

Accomack County

ACCOMACK COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — There is concern growing on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  

More and more employees inside Accomack County’s Tyson Foods plant are speaking out about coronavirus fears.

“Just this past week, I saw five cases reported on Facebook,” said employee Lakesha Bailey.

“It is spreading so quickly in the chicken plants I guess, because the symptoms don’t appear right away,” added employee Markita Davis.

RELATED: Eastern Shore Tyson Foods plant closing temporarily for cleaning

Many employees work very closely together, so when the coronavirus hit the United States there was an immediate fear.

“My initial thoughts when it came was ‘what are we going to do and how can I keep myself and my family safe?’” employee Sadique Smith said.

Bailey has worked at the plant for five years.  The first thing she thought of was her mother who has a lung disease.

“I am floating around inside the plant,” Bailey added. “I come into contact with employees throughout my shift, so in the back of my mind I’m was always wondering if I’m putting my mom at risk, but I’m a single mother and I have two children.  I have no choice but to go to work.”

Employees say they have noticed changes. Every morning, they now gather under tents outside the plant. Each employee has their temperature checked before going in. Masks are also now worn at all times. The senior vice president addressed the concern and safety measures by video.

“They have spread out cafeteria tables to provide more distancing, but as for the production areas themselves, everyone is still working should-to-shoulder,” Bailey said.

A Tyson spokesperson tells 10 On Your Side they can’t say how many employees have tested positive.

Even with the changes, employees still are getting sick.

“It’s scary just for the simple fact I don’t know how long they may have had it before they got tested,” Davis said. “It’s scary on the part that I don’t want to bring it home to my kids.”

Over the weekend, the plant closed for an extra day to do a deep clean. Employees would like to see more done at both Tyson and Perdue.

“I think both plants should have closed for 14 days and I think every person who works there should be in their home just to stop the spread of the virus,” Davis added.

Poultry workers, labor rights representatives and Eastern Shore community organizers held a protest car rally outside of the Perdue chicken plant in Accomac on Monday afternoon, in an effort to highlight what they say are insufficient protections at poultry plants, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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