Seguin’s second employer will demand the vaccines. Here’s what the city thinks.

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With the Delta variant surging, Tyson Foods’ decision this week to require all employees to be vaccinated came at a crucial time for Seguin, a town northeast of San Antonio in Guadalupe County.

Tyson Foods, Seguin’s second-largest employer, announced the vaccine’s mandate the same week COVID-19-related hospitalizations at Guadalupe Regional Medical Center doubled. All but two of the patients are not vaccinated.

This increase is attributed to the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. Additionally, Texas has a relatively high proportion of unvaccinated residents.

Like most of the state, the pace of vaccinations has slowed in Seguin. City leaders believe Tyson’s tenure will help.

“I salute Tyson for taking the lead,” said City Manager Steve Peters. “It is a difficult decision because they understand this as well as we do, that citizens have rights, but it is also the choice of an employer, and they want to protect their people.”

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The latest state data shows that 72 percent of the three area codes that encompass Seguin have been vaccinated. About 30,000 people live in the city.

As of Thursday, 24 patients were being treated for COVID-19 at the Guadalupe Regional Medical Center. Due to staffing issues, this is roughly half of the hospital’s capacity to treat COVID patients.

“So when we have 24 patients in the hospital, it really gets to the point where they’re maxed out,” Parker said. “But there are also times when patients have to be turned away. Someone has a heart attack, and if everything is overwhelmed, it doesn’t do anyone any good.

To date, 52 residents of Seguin have died from the virus, including Roger Dean, a 31-year-old firefighter. Dean passed away in April after a long battle with COVID-19. His death made headlines statewide and portions of Interstate 10 were closed as his body was escorted from a Houston hospital to Seguin.

Houston firefighters stop at the TC Jester Bridge over I-10 as an escort transports the body of firefighter / paramedic Roger Dean from Seguin on Friday April 23, 2021 in Houston.

Steve Gonzales / Personal Photographer

The efforts of Guadalupe County and the Town of Seguin to educate residents about the importance of vaccines and mask wearing have had moderate success, said Mayor Donna Dodgen.

“At first it was amazing,” said Dodgen. “People were a little scared and they got vaccinated. Over the past few months, it appears to have plateaued.

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The meat producer has a huge footprint in Seguin. Tyson has 750 employees at the processing plant just off I-10. Another 100 people are employed in hatcheries and feed mills in Guadelupe and Gonzales counties.

“Getting vaccinated is the most effective thing we can do to protect ourselves, our families and our communities,” Tyson CEO Donnie King said in an open letter to employees announcing the new vaccine requirement.

It will go into effect for Tyson executives on September 24, office workers on October 1, and for other Tyson workers a month later.

In the first months of the pandemic, more than 10,000 Tyson Foods employees contracted COVID-19, according to a study by the Food & Environment Reporting Network.

At the start of the pandemic, Tyson warned of meat shortages as livestock and poultry processing factories were closed by coronavirus outbreaks among workers.

On Tyson’s tenure, Dodgen said, “I totally support them and applaud them for what they do.”

For Dodgen, the mandate of vaccination goes far beyond protecting people’s health and lives.

“This Tyson ripple effect when we don’t have enough people and employees to run the meat chains,” Dodgen said. “Then our local HEB doesn’t have chicken and we don’t have that to buy. ”

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Other large domestic employers, including United Airlines, Disney, Google, Microsoft and Walmart, have also announced that many of their employees need to be vaccinated. Tyson’s mandate is being negotiated with meat packing plants represented by unions.

About 60 percent of the workforce in the city of Seguin is vaccinated. The city is discussing several incentives to help boost vaccinations, including gift cards, bonuses, and additional holiday pay.

Green Gate Garden Center in Seguin has also started to impose vaccinations on all employees in contact with customers. All but one of the employees at her store complied, office manager Robyn Wolters told the Washington Post.

A member of the Tyson Foods team receives a COVID-19 vaccine from health officials at the Joslin, Illinois facility in February.

A member of the Tyson Foods team receives a COVID-19 vaccine from health officials at the Joslin, Illinois facility in February.

John Konstantaras / Associated press

“We realized we had to be very clear about this: either you’re vaccinated or you can’t work here,” Wolters told the newspaper. “We were very lucky that no one here got covid, but you just can’t trust everyone to do the right thing.”

Dodgen, a dietitian at Warm Springs Specialty Hospital in Luling, said Tyson’s tenure could help boost the town’s immunization rate. Employees could also become “ambassadors” to help encourage family, friends and others to get the vaccine.

“They can talk about it and tell their story,” Dodgen said.

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