Gov. Noem: Over half of South Dakota’s COVID-19 cases tied to Smithfield plant outbreak

Updated: Apr. 15, 2020 at 10:30 AM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KTIV) -- The Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in Sioux Falls continues to be a hot spot -- and accounts for more than half of the state’s 1,168 COVID-19 cases.

As of April 15, 644 people who work at the plant, or are connected to workers, have been infected. Data compiled by the New York Times indicates the plant has now become the number one hotspot in the country.

The company has shut down the plant indefinitely. A quick-response team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is in Sioux Falls and will tour the plant on April 17.

The mayor of Sioux Falls is going ahead with a city-wide shelter-in-place ordinance. The first vote is expected Wednesday, and a second vote next week.

Meanwhile, Governor Kristi Noem rejected the mayor’s request to issue a county-wide order in Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties.

“We’ve continued to have conversations with our federal officials, with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. He has been working with us. I have also been speaking with the CEO of Smithfield, working on a plan to safely reopen the plant to get it back online to bring some relief to not only our ag producers but to make sure we are continuing to secure our food supply,” said Gov. Noem.

Noem says the state is currently doing targeted testing with those employees who tested positive for the virus.

Industry workers are vulnerable because some employees work elbow-to-elbow. Some companies have recently shut down plants.

The North American Meat Institute, which represents the industry says, “our members are tackling COVID-19 one day at a time.”

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