The CDC has released its report on how the Smithfield meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls can limit spread of the coronavirus. The plant remains closed after becoming one of the country’s largest cluster of COVID-19 cases.
The fifteen-page memo outlines observations from a CDC inspection. It includes things Smithfield was already doing - like screening employee temperatures when they got to work and adding plexiglass barriers between employees.
The report also says informational flyers often weren’t at eye-level. Some employees weren’t wearing provided masks correctly. And tables in cafeteria areas were not six feet apart.
Governor Kristi Noem wouldn’t say if Smithfield was doing enough to prevent the outbreak.
“From looking through the report it certainly looks like there’s some recommendations that could be done," she says. "They’ve been working well with us, the CDC, the Department of Ag and even the Vice President’s been involved to make sure we’re able to put in recommendations and get up and running as soon as possible.”
The report includes ten pages of additional recommendations. Many focus on social distancing. The CDC wants to add signs at six-foot intervals as visual cues. Hygiene is another focus. The CDC recommends offering hand sanitizer along the production lines every 30 minutes. Smithfield had discussed that but had not done it. The plant’s employee locker rooms also come under scrutiny in the report. It recommends shifting break times to limit the number of people in locker rooms and finding other spaces for lockers.
The federal report also says Smithfield should adjust any incentive pay programs so employees are not penalized for taking COVID-19 – related sick leave. Smithfield had offered a $500 bonus to workers who didn’t miss a shift in April. Smithfield says workers with COVID-19 absences will still be eligible for the so-called “responsibility bonus.”
Governor Noem says with the recommendations released, she’s ready to work with Smithfield to safely reopen the Sioux Falls plant.
The full CDC report is available online.