For the first time in months, the parking lot at Washington High School was full. It wasn’t because of students, but because of people waiting to get tested for COVID-19. The Sioux Falls lot is where Smithfield Foods workers and their families can get tested for COVID-19 for free.
Car after car after car lined up and spilled into the streets so their drivers could wait to get tested for COVID-19. Hundreds of Smithfield workers and their family members showed up. Workers giving out the tests are covered head to toe in protective gear.
While most Smithfield employees are waiting to find out if and when they can go back to work, the company welcomed back workers to two departments. It’s the first time since the coronavirus outbreak.
KELOLAND News tried to talk with Smithfield employees, but one told us off-camera the company told its workers not to talk to any news organizations. We contacted the company, which denied a request for a Zoom interview. A representative sent a statement about the testing.
“Avera has setup a screening location at Washington High School in Sioux Falls. Smithfield employees may be tested at that – and other locations – on a voluntary basis,” a representative for Smithfield Foods said.
Though testing isn’t mandatory for Smithfield employees, Governor Kristi Noem is encouraging them to get tested. The state, Avera, the CDC and the South Dakota National Guard coordinated Monday’s event.
“I want to be clear, the State of South Dakota is providing for all the costs with the testing, for the set-up of this facility,” Noem said.
Moving forward, Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon says mass testing will continue to evolve.
“Mass events like the one you’re seeing in Sioux Falls will certainly be a part of the plan moving forward. I don’t see us moving in the direction of universal testing on-demand at this time,” Kim Malsam-Rysdon said.
Health officials say it will take about 48 hours for results to come in.