SIOUX FALLS, SD — According to the South Dakota Department of Health, 518 Smithfield employees who work at the Sioux Falls plant tested positive for COVID-19, and 126 people who had contact with the Smithfield employees have also contracted the virus.
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem said in a press conference that a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will tour the South Dakota plant on April 16 and make recommendations on when to reopen the facility.
Smithfield Foods Inc. also announced on April 15 that it would close two more facilities after a number of employees at plants in Missouri and Wisconsin tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The plants, located in Cudahy, Wis., and Martin City, Mo., are located close to urban areas in which community spread of COVID-19 has been prevalent.
Smithfield’s dry sausage and bacon plant in Cudahy will close for two weeks while the Martin City plant, a ham processing operation that employs more than 400 people, receives raw materials from the Sioux Falls, SD, pork plant that will be closed indefinitely due to employees there testing positive for the virus.
“The closure of our Martin City plant is part of the domino effect underway in our industry,” said Kenneth M. Sullivan, president and chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods. “It highlights the interdependence and interconnectivity of our food supply chain. Our country is blessed with abundant livestock supplies, but our processing facilities are the bottleneck of our food chain. Without plants like Sioux Falls running, other further processing facilities like Martin City cannot function. This is why our government has named food and agriculture critical infrastructure sectors and called on us to maintain operations and normal work schedules.”
“We are doing everything in our power to help protect our team members from COVID-19 in the workplace,” Sullivan said. “This starts with stringent and detailed processes and protocols that follow the strict guidance of the CDC and extends to things like the use of thermal scanning, personal protective equipment and physical barriers, to name a few. We are also being explicit with employees: ‘Do not report to work if you are sick or exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.’”