SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Smithfield Foods, Inc. announced on Sunday its Sioux Falls facility will remain closed until further notice.
This comes after South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Sioux Falls Mayer Paul TenHaken sent a joint letter to the company recommending they shut down for 14 days. The governor and mayor asked that the company provides pay and benefits to those out of work.
According to the news release from Smithfield Foods, Inc., some activity will occur at the plant on Tuesday to process inventory.
“Smithfield will resume operations in Sioux Falls once further direction is received from local, state and federal officials. The company will continue to compensate its employees for the next two weeks and hopes to keep them from joining the ranks of the tens of millions of unemployed Americans across the country,” the news release says.
KELOLAND News first reported on the outbreak at the meatpacking plant on Wednesday, April 8 following the governor’s briefing.
Wednesday, April 8
Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon spoke to how the Department of Health is working with Smithfield Foods management in Sioux Falls. She said there were more than 80 cases of COVID-19 in employees of the plant at the time.
Thursday, April 9
KELOLAND News reported the plant was quickly becoming one of the top hotspots for COVID-19 in the country. In a statement from the company, the plant would stop operations “on a large section of the plant on Saturday and remain closed on Sunday and Monday, while essential employees clean the plant.”
Friday, April 10
Smithfield Foods was declared the fourth largest COVID-19 hotspot in the country, according to data compiled by the New York Times.
Gov. Kristi Noem announced that there were 190 COVID-19 cases linked to the plant. 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.
Saturday, April 11
On Saturday, 90 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the state. 48 of those cases were linked to Smithfield Foods, bringing the total positive cases to 238 at the meatpacking plant.
Gov. Noem announced the request for the plant to close Saturday afernoong. State epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton said there is no risk of spread of COVID-19 to the food in these facilities.
Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken also addressed what is happening at the Smithfield Foods meatpacking plant.
He says the letter sent to Smithfield Foods has “very strong recommendations.”
As of Saturday, Sioux Falls has 182.25 cases per 100,000 residents, which is more than Seattle and Chicago, according to Mayor Paul TenHaken. The city is doubling the amount of cases every four days over the last 16 days.
Mayor TenHaken said the request is for a full closure of the Smithfield plant. He said he was frustrated that Smithfield Foods announcing a three-day closure when he says the plant wasn’t fully closed on Saturday. He says he appreciates what Smithfield Foods has done so far, however, he thinks they need to take a little bigger step.
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