Expert says COVID-19 thrives in food processing plants' cold temperatures

SHERMAN, Tex. (KXII) - Sherman's Tyson plant is just one of several food processing facilities across the country reporting outbreaks of COVID-19.

"So the question becomes, it's a pandemic right? And what that means is everybody at some point in time will eventually become exposed to this at some point or another," said Steve Stouffer, president at Tyson Fresh Meats.

Stouffer said that is why they had every employee at the Sherman plant tested for COVID-19 through the state department of emergency management.

"Those without symptoms we test, they come back to work and we have the PPE in place to prevent the community spread within the plant that's the masks, face shields, the barriers, hand sanitizers," Stouffer said.

Infectious disease expert Rik Heller said he believes meat processing plants like Tyson could be COVID-19 hot spots nationwide for more reasons than lack of social distancing and sanitizing.

"Given that it is food processing, it's often the case that it's a cold environment," Heller said.

He said the cold temperatures required for food safety make the air dry.

"Dry places cause the spread of this Coronavirus, and most any virus for that matter," Heller said.

Employees at the Sherman plant report nearly 300 cases of COVID-19.

Stouffer said they do not have a finalized number yet, but he said the company plans to release it when they do.