More than 80 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Smithfield Foods processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D.
On Wednesday, April 8, Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon told the Argus Leader, "There are a number of cases connected, that number has changed every day." She said the number of cases in workers did not include others who may have become infected from those employees.
The first positive case in a plant employee was confirmed on March 26. Nearly a week prior, officials said the plant would maintain normal operations and would not close or send employees home amid the new coronavirus pandemic, the Argus Leader reports.
In Minnehaha County, which includes most of Sioux Falls, there are 228 confirmed cases. Smithfield has 3,600 employees in Sioux Falls and 40,000 nationwide, the article says.
"We believe that the employer is taking appropriate action," Gov. Krist Noem said during a news conference.
Some meat packing plants have temporarily closed or shifted operations due to COVID-19 because of employee sickness or workers not showing up to work. Tyson Foods, Inc. closed its Columbus Junction, Iowa, plant on Monday after dozens of workers tested positive. On Tuesday, JBS Beef in Hazelton, Penn., closed its plant and said it will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.
Dustin Oedekoven, South Dakota state veterinarian and executive secretary for the South Dakota Animal Industry Board overseeing animal and public health and food safety, told the Argus Leader that continuing operations at packing plants is paramount amid a pandemic so as not to slow food production or further disrupt the economy for South Dakota meat producers, the article said.
Oedekoven reminded consumers that coronaviruses are not a foodborne illness. There is no risk or concern for food safety.