Smithfield to hold mass testing for employees and families


Gracie Terrall, Copy Editor

Gov. Kristi Noem announced in her May 4 press briefing that a mass testing event will be held for employees and their dependents of Smithfield Foods, Inc. 


Smithfield wants to make sure that employees are testing negative before they return to work. 


According to South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon, both symptomatic and asymptomatic people are able to be tested. Results will take 48 hours to come in. 


Avera Health and the National Guard have helped get the event started. Noem employed the National Guard to help set up the testing facilities and Avera has agreed to staff and test individuals. 


“The state of South Dakota is providing for all the costs with the testing, for the setup with this facility. We have secured the personal protective equipment for Smithfield and we also make sure the contact tracing happens as well,” Noem said. 


Smithfield has made testing an optional choice for employees planning to return to work. The governor confirmed that employees will be allowed to return to work in phases to not overwhelm the system and that it should be back up and running within five to six days. 


While it is important to mass test the employees at Smithfield so they can return to work, Noem remarked that mass testing everyone in the state would only be beneficial for a few hours. 


If all of South Dakota were to be tested today, that would amount to 850,000 tests. The issue with mass testing the entire population, according to Noem, is that some people may not have the antibodies in their blood to show a positive case but, after a few hours, their test could be positive.


“If we were to go out and test everybody in the state, that would only make us feel good for about 10 hours,” Noem said. 


Malsam-Rysdon announced that new guidance has been released on incubation periods. People who are symptomatic are now only required to isolate for 10 days as opposed to 14 days. For the last three days, the individual must remain fever-free. 


Noem also discussed the state revenue numbers for the month of March. She wanted to stress that COVID-19 only affected state revenue for the last week or so of March while the rest of the month operated as normal. According to the reports, South Dakota lost $18.1 million in general fund revenue. 


While not all of the money lost was due to COVID-19, multiple businesses in the state suffered immensely from the decline in sales. Hotels, clothing stores and restaurants have been hit the hardest. However, there has been an increase in sales at grocery stores and hardware stores. 


“We do know that the brunt of the economic impact will be felt in April,” Noem said. 


South Dakota’s updated revenue numbers for April will be available in June.