SMITHFIELD, VA. – Starting the week of April 27, Smithfield Foods Inc. will suspend operations at its Monmouth, Ill., pork facility to begin testing its employees for the coronavirus (COVID-19). The company said it is temporarily closing the facility after a “small number” of its 1,700 employees tested positive for the virus. Employees will continue to be paid during the closure.
The Monmouth plant represents approximately 3% the US fresh pork supply and also produces bacon.
The company said it has been “proactively and aggressively tackling COVID-19 by implementing processes, protocols and protective measures throughout its operations and remains wholly committed to doing everything in its power to help protect its team members from COVID-19 in the workplace.”
Smithfield will continue to provide its employees with personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks. The company has also implemented thermal scanning in all its facilities and has added plexiglass and other physical barriers between workers on the production floor and in the break rooms.
In other Illinois news, the Kane County Health Department ordered Smithfield Foods to temporarily close its plant in St. Charles, due to COVID-19 concerns.
Kane County said the order to close was issued on April 24. The order was put in place so that the facility could work with the health department on mitigation efforts and provide education relative to social distancing and employees safety when it comes to personal protective equipment (PPE).
No specific case numbers were given out by Kane Country or Smithfield Foods.
In addition to the Monmouth facility, Smithfield has also suspended operations at its plants in Sioux Falls, SD, Cudahy, Wis., and Martin City, Mo. 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 pork plant that will be closed indefinitely due to employees there testing positive for the virus.
On April 15, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem said in a press conference that a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would tour the South Dakota plant on April 16 and 17 and make recommendations on when to reopen the facility. 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.
After touring the plant, the CDC had a lengthy list of recommendations for Smithfield executives to consider before reopening the company’s Sioux Falls pork processing plant. Noem released the report on April 22.