Gov. Noem sends letter to Smithfield asking them to shut down for 14 days.


Gracie Terrall, Copy Editor

Gov. Kristi Noem opened her April 11 press briefing by confirming that South Dakota has 626 positive COVID-19 cases. Of those cases, 238 of them originate from the meat packaging plant, Smithfield Food Inc. in Sioux Falls.

Noem announced that she and the mayor of Sioux Falls, Paul TenHaken, are sending a joint letter to Smithfield’s CEO recommending that the company suspend operations for a minimum of 14 days. They are also asking Smithfield to continue providing full payment benefits to employees as well as sick leave for those infected or experiencing symptoms. 

On Friday, April 6, Noem announced that the state of South Dakota will need 5,000 hospital beds by the peak infection date – which is currently set for June. 

Today, Noem wanted to stress that there will be thousands of people infected in the state. 

“These numbers are going to continue to climb,” Noem said. 

South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said that, since the beginning of March, the South Dakota Department of Health has tripled its investigative staff. These people work daily with positive individuals to track where they have been and who they came in contact with. 

“We will be surging again next week and loading out additional groups of staff … to help with that,” Malsam-Rysdon said.

Malsam-Rysdon and state epidemiologist Dr. Josh Clayton addressed the testing capacities for employees at Smithfield. According to Clayton, tests are only being administered to people with symptoms so they are not wasting tests. However, Malsam-Rysdon added that they have enhanced testing for employees at Smithfield due to it being a hotspot. 

“We are making sure we are good stewards of the testing capabilities that we have,” Clayton said. 

Clayton also added that there is no risk that the virus can be transferred through food production.