CHICAGO (Reuters) – Tyson Foods Inc said fully vaccinated employees at some facilities will no longer be required to wear masks starting on Tuesday, but those at meat-packing plants would still have to do so.
The meat processor joins major employers like Amazon.com and Walmart in relaxing mask mandates for staff.
Tyson said its policy applies to employees at facilities not inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Meatpacking plants, which were a hot spot for outbreaks early in the COVID-19 pandemic, are inspected by the USDA. The removal of masks is also dependent on local and state laws.
Tyson said it is easing mask mandates because of lower infection rates and “extremely low rates of serious illness.” The company last year required employees to be vaccinated.
The U.S. meat industry was hit hard by COVID-19 infections at the start of the pandemic, when thousands of infections at meat plants temporarily shut slaughterhouses. In January, rising COVID-19 infections among U.S. workers again forced plants to slow production.
Tyson has said it spent $810 million on preventive COVID-19 measures and prioritizes employees’ health.
The company said it will continue to provide masks for employees who chose to wear them and watch for new coronavirus variants.
(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Nick Zieminski)