Three-day shutdown for Smithfield Foods Inc. during COVID-19 hotspot


Jordan Rusche, Copy Editor

Gov. Kristi Noem discussed how the Smithfield Foods Inc., plant COVID-19 outbreak was progressing in her press briefing April 9.

The Sioux Falls plant, which was discovered to have 80 cases among its employees yesterday, has now been issued a three-day shutdown for rigorous cleaning and protective equipment installation such as physical barriers, according to Noem. 

Employees will also receive paid time-off during this time and for those who have contracted COVID-19.

Noem also reported that she had been in contact with Ken Sullivan, the president and CEO of Smithfield Foods, in the last 24 hours, and that she and the South Dakota Department of Health were working closely to establish which steps were necessary to ensure the health and safety of the workers and their families. 

The governor also said that they have been in contact with other plants around the state on how to care for their employees, as well.

“What I’m impressed with is their number one concern is they care, and they love their employees,” Noem said regarding Smithfield Foods. “They’re concerned about communicating with them.”

According to Noem, the plant supplies 130 million servings of pork per week. However, Secretary of the Department of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon reported that her department does not believe that the virus could have spread to their products. She also reported that so far, no additional cases originating from the plant have been discovered.

Noem also announced the launch of a new app today designed to track location to alert users to possible contact with the virus.

The app, called Care 19, utilizes location services in phones to allow users to track where they have been if they contract COVID-19, as well as track the virus’s spread throughout the state. The app is completely voluntary and anonymous, and users can delete their data gathered by the app at any time. It is also being utilized in North Dakota.

It will be available for download from both the app store and the website.

During the press briefing, Noem noted that 7,916 unemployment claims were filed during the week of March 29-April 4, which is up 1,115 claims from the previous week. She cited that prior to the COVID-19 outbreak in South Dakota, the average amount of claims filed was 150-180 claims per week.

“These numbers are historical in our state in the very worst way,” Noem said.

Noem reminded those applying for unemployment to fill out the weekly requests for payment in order to ensure they receive the extra $600 allotted to them through the new Cares Act.

According to Noem, the National Guard in South Dakota is now working on plans for future temporary hospitals in the state. The process determining where these hospitals will be located should be finalized next week.

She also stated that she is looking into options for alternative equipment to ventilators until more supplies can arrive but are making progress in acquiring them.

Malsam-Rysdon also described the efforts put forward by the state Department of Health in regards to how non-native English speakers in South Dakota receive information about COVID-19. According to her, the department utilizes interpreters to communicate with those who are infected and routinely issues new information regarding the virus in languages other than English.