One of Waterloo's largest employers is strengthening benefits for workers who are fully vaccinated.

Starting Jan. 1, frontline workers at Tyson Foods can begin earning up to 20 hours of paid sick leave per year. New hires will also get one week of vacation after six months of employment, company officials said.

The new policies are in addition to recent compensation improvements announced by the company, which have included pay increases, referrals, signing bonuses and other incentives. According to Tyson, the average base pay plus benefits for U.S. production workers is currently valued at more than $22 per hour.

Tyson employees nearly 2,800 workers at its pork processing facility in Waterloo, the company's largest. Collectively, there are around 11,000 people working at six Tyson production plants in Iowa. The other plants are located in Independence, Columbus Junction, Council Bluffs, Perry and Storm Lake.

Figures from the Black Hawk County Health Department show the county's 14-day COVID-19 positivity rate is currently at 12.4 percent. According to the dashboard, 24 people are currently being treated for the virus at Waterloo-area hospitals.

Tyson continues to provide its U.S. workers with free, on-site access to COVID-19 vaccinations. Continuing vaccination events are scheduled throughout the country to offer all team members the vaccine in time for the November 1 deadline, when they are all required to be fully immunized.

Over 30,000 team members have been vaccinated since Tyson announced the requirement in early August, company officials said. According to figures released by Tyson, more than 75 percent (over 90,000) of the company's team members have received as least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

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