Smithfield now 4th largest hotspot in the United States; DOH to declare public health emergency for Minnehaha County Original

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) said the COVID-19 hotspot in Minnehaha County related to Smithfield Foods now calls for a public health emergency.

New numbers released Friday makes the Sioux Falls meatpacking plant, which is beginning a three-day closure, the fourth largest COVID-19 hotspot in the country, according to data compiled by the New York Times.

Noem said 190 positive COVID-19 cases are tied to the Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls.

In response to the cases in plant employees, Noem has directed the South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon to declare a public health emergency in the county.

The Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., is seen Wednesday, April 8, 2020, where health officials reported more than 80 employees have confirmed cases of the coronavirus (AP Photo/Stephen Groves)

Most of those 190 cases are employees of Smithfield, said Dr. Joshua Clayton of the South Dakota Department of Health.

Malsam-Rysdon said the public health emergency gives the DOH the authority to work with the judicial system to make sure people who may be violating orders such as quarantining or isolating do so.

Noem said the public health emergency is a proactive measure because Minnehaha County’s positive COVID-19 cases have reached a threshold where more people are involved and more contact with individuals is involved.

The state is dedicating resources in response to the hotspot at Smithfield, Noem said.

“We are testing people at a higher rate,” Noem said.

Also, Smithfield employees are being monitored and the state is working to isolate those who may be sick, according to the governor.

“We are tracking individuals that are COVID-19 in the community,” Clayton said.

On average, a person with COVID-19 can come in close contact with 10 people, Clayton said.

“There’s very good guidance from the Center for Disease Control about how to prevent COVID-19 to members of their household,” Clayton said.

The employee base includes residents whose first language is not English.

Noem said in this situation “we are working with interpreters” to make sure employees and family members understand CDC guidelines and other information.

Noem said the state is also working with community leaders in the Minnehaha County and Sioux Falls area.

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