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PORTLAND, Maine — A Portland meat-processing plant was set to reopen on Thursday after a top state health official said 51 employees of the Tyson Foods facility tested positive for the coronavirus when the entire workforce was screened.
The outbreak includes 14 positive cases announced Wednesday by Maine CDC Director Nirav Shah after he reported 37 cases at the plant on Tuesday. The total represents roughly an eighth of the plant’s 391 full-time workforce, predominantly made up of immigrant workers.
The plant shut down on Friday after an outbreak was discovered, but Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman said the company plans to reopen it on Thursday after the Maine CDC and an outside medical contractor tested its workforce for the virus. Shah said all of the results are in. The Maine CDC is conducting an epidemiological investigation of the plant’s outbreak.
“We do so with an eye recognizing the difficult socioeconomic challenges that many of these employees face and the language barriers we may encounter as we go about that process,” Shah said, noting that the CDC is using medical translators to help conduct contact tracing and inform workers’ communities about safety measures.
In a press statement, the company said it relaxed its attendance policy to encourage workers to stay home if they were sick. It also established a short-term disability program giving employees who missed work 90 percent of wages if they were sick with the virus. Tyson has paid workers while the plant was idle.
Sparkman did not respond to an inquiry about whether those workers have been given additional sick leave during the pandemic. The company is offering $500 bonuses for workers based on attendance.
All of the 51 positive cases are not included in the state’s official tally of 1,254 COVID-19 cases reported Wednesday, Shah said. They will be included in Thursday’s tally.
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