FORT SMITH, Ark. — Sebastian County Coroner Ken Hobbs confirmed Thursday (June 25) that a Fort Smith resident has died from COVID-19.
Hobbs says it was a 53-year-old Fort Smith woman who died Wednesday (June 24), but her identity has not been released at this time.
The woman had been in the hospital at Baptist Health in Fort Smith for less than 24 hours before she passed.
Hobbs has notified the Arkansas Department of Health who will now perform contact tracing.
The woman's family members are also getting tested or have already been tested for the virus.
Hobbs says he does not know how the woman contracted the virus.
The woman was an employee at Tyson Foods. The company released the following statement:
"We are saddened by the loss of any Tyson team member and sympathize with the family at this difficult time. At Tyson Foods, our top priority is the health and safety of our team members, and we have put in place a host of protective steps at our facilities that meet or exceed CDC and OSHA guidelines for preventing COVID-19, including at our Van Buren facility.
- The number of positive cases inside of the plant – We don’t have numbers to share since this is a fluid and ever-changing situation, but we can tell you we’re only aware of a limited number of positive cases involving Tyson team members in the River Valley. As part of our CDC-based protocol, team members who test positive remain on paid leave and may return to work only when they have met the criteria established by both the CDC and Tyson.
- Safety measures being taken - We’ve transformed the way our plants operate to protect our team members, implementing measures such as symptom screening for all team members before every shift, mandatory protective face masks, and a range of social distancing measures that include barriers between workstations and in break rooms. We have also designated social distance monitors in our facilities, including in our plants in the River Valley, to help ensure our team members are following social distancing guidelines in break rooms and locker rooms, and that they’re wearing their personal protective equipment properly. Here is a downloadable link to b-roll highlighting some of the health and safety measures we’ve implemented at our facilities.
- How employees are being told about these cases - We notify anyone who we know has been in close contact with a positive team member. A manager notifies team members who have been in contact with a team member who tests positive. We also inform team members who have not been exposed and provide information to our supervisors so they can help answer questions.
- The lack of Transparency seems to be a consensus with employees. We understand this is due to medical information that can't be released but can you comment on this for the employees who will be watching this story – We want our team members to feel safe when they are at work, and we are open and transparent with them and the community about the measures that we are taking to protect them and our community from the spread of COVID-19. As noted above, we notify anyone who has been in close contact with a positive team member and inform team members who have not been exposed. And, we have safety measures and educational efforts in place to protect our team members."
Governor Asa Hutchinson says testing helps determine the scope of the virus and it helps give an understanding of its effect on certain individuals.
He also says all techniques to prevent the spread of the virus need to be utilized.
“When there’s a concentration of effort in masks and social distancing and taking it seriously and testing and our isolation that has a difference in the community,” Gov. Hutchinson said.