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Tyson Foods Inc. offered each of about 1,600 employees in the Wilkes County Schools a 10-pound box of chicken nuggets, said Wilkes School Superintendent Mark Byrd.

Tyson delivered the boxes of chicken nuggets to West and Wilkes Central high schools on Friday for school personnel in those districts to pick up. More were delivered to North Wilkes and East Wilkes high schools for school employees in those districts.

The frozen chicken was given away in recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week, which was last week.

“I had an employee tell me it brought tears to her eyes when she got the email” announcing the chicken giveaway, said Byrd when he spoke about the gifts during the Wilkes Economic Development Corp. meeting Friday morning.

“I know Tyson is going through a lot of challenges, but they are still being very supportive of our school system,” he added.

Also during the EDC meeting, Wilkesboro Town Manager Ken Noland said a Tyson employee called him Thursday to say she appreciated the Wilkesboro Town Council prohibiting drones from flying over the Tyson chicken processing complex because it was adding to the stress they already faced.

“She also wholeheartedly said Tyson was doing a great job keeping them safe and protected from the (corona)virus. She said that when you walk down the rails, there is someone in front of you wiping down the rails and someone behind you wiping down the rails,” added Noland.

Noland said results of testing all Tyson employees for COVID-19 last week should be available around the middle of this week. “That should give us a good idea of what the next step is at Tyson. They’ll have to make decisions about how to move forward once they have those results.”

He added, “I think we’re very encouraged by the first round of testing the health department” did at the chicken processing complex on May 4. “I think we had a 20% positive rate out of 200 tests. Sounds like a lot but if you look at what’s going in in the meat packing industry generally. There are plants with 50%-plus.”

Noland said Wilkesboro officials continue to make sure Tyson’s water and sewer needs for chicken processing are met. He said the Tyson processing complex’s water and sewer bill from the town in March was the highest ever, indicating the level of production.

“We do expect a reduction in usage over the next couple of months. They’ve had to reduce bird count because so many employees are out sick,” he added.

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