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Tyson Foods exec "absolutely" feels safe visiting plants recovered from COVID-19 outbreaks


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As a fifth Tyson Foods location in Iowa deals with a COVID-19 outbreak, a executive for the company tells Iowa's News Now she has felt safe during multiple site visits in the past month - some of them at plants that have had outbreaks of the virus.

Noelle O'Mara is a group president for Tyson - and spoke with Iowa's News Now's Mitch Fick on Thursday about those visits - as well as how and when safeguards and protective protocols were put in place. Iowa has had outbreaks reported in Columbus Junction, Waterloo, Perry, Storm Lake, and Council Bluffs.

The following is a transcript of Thursday's interview:

Mitch: "On an average year - and certainly, this year has been anything but average - how many times a year would you make site visits to physical plants, wherever they may be across the country. Is that something that's part of your repertoire?"

O'Mara: "It absolutely is - and I'll tell you it's one of the most important, favorite aspects of my job - to be able to go and spend time in our facilities and spend time with our team members. I spent a tremendous amount of time over the past month - I've probably been in four or five facilities, ensuring that I'm listening and thanking our team members for the heroic job that they're doing."

Mitch" "Have any of your visits been to places that have dealt with outbreaks?"

O'Mara: "Yes."

Mitch: "What have those frontline team members conveyed to you, in terms of their feelings? What kind of conversations have you been having?"

O'Mara: "Yes - they've been great, transparent, open conversations. And I'll share with you that numerous times throughout many different facilities, we'll have team members share the gratitude that they have for all the safety protocols they can see and are tangibly different than six months ago as we all now experience this ever-changing environment with the outbreak. They've shared that they feel more safe in our facilities than in the communities - just given all of the safety measures that we have put in place. So those conversations are so incredibly important for us to hear, to understand, to learn from, and ensure that we're doing everything we can to keep our team members safe."

Mitch: "Are (safety measures) put in reactively at places that have only had outbreaks or are those anything that are put in preventatively at places across the country before there are ever outbreaks - or is this something that only goes in place once they've been cited as a place with cases?"

O'Mara: "These are implementations and transformations that we've made across all of our facilities within Tyson Foods?"

Mitch: "Do you know if those were put in place before these testing measures were done there and we found those outbreaks? Were these already put in place when the outbreaks were found?"

O'Mara: "We've been implementing these safeguards and measures along the way - starting with our COVID task force in January -and since then, have been adapting and refining as we've continued to learn more. As you look at our Storm Lake plant, we have begun resuming operations after deep cleaning. As we look at Council Bluffs, Iowa - we have disclosed our test results. It's important for us that we ensure that we're taking care of our team members as well as sharing best practices with our communities - because we recognize that we need to ensure that the risk in the communities and the community spread - that we're taking some of the best practices that we're seeing inside of our plants - of team members wearing face coverings and social distancing - and taking those practices out into those communities?"

Mitch: "Have you felt safe going into those plants knowing those protocols are in place - and certainly knowing the other side of things - what plants have been going through in places like Waterloo?"

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O'Mara: "Absolutely. I want to be clear that if at any point in time that I don't feel safe or our team members don't feel safe - anyone, if we don't feel like we have the safety protocols in place, we will close the plants. We will idolize. The most important aspect of this is team member safety - and so there is nothing that comes from that. We have to ensure that our team members are safe."

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