The number of COVID-19 cases among Smithfield workers at the Sioux Falls meatpacking plant continues to rise. The plant now accounts for 44% of the state’s COVID-19 cases.
Governor Kristi Noem is denying Sioux Falls mayor Paul TenHaken’s requests for a state-led response to the spike in cases.
The situation is getting national attention and furthering criticism of Governor Kristi Noem’s refusal to issue a statewide stay-at-home order.
The governor continues to defend her decision.
“That is absolutely false. It is not true
. A shelter in place would have had no impact on what happened at Smithfield," she says.
Noem says the plant would have been exempt from any shutdown order because it's considered an essential operation. On Monday, State Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said the department can’t pinpoint how the first Smithfield employee contracted the virus.
“Minnehaha County did already have substantial community spread at the time we saw the first case among a Smithfield employee.”
The first case at the plant was reported in late March. As of Tuesday, more than 400 of the plant’s employees have tested positive for COVID-19.
Governor Noem has also denied Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken’s request for shelter-in-place orders for Minnehaha and Lincoln counties.
“I do know the mayor has some tools available, and that can be a local decision he and the city council take if they choose to do,” she says.
The governor is also refusing the mayor’s request for an isolation camp in Sioux Falls. She says the state is already asking people to stay at home if the show symptoms of the coronavirus.
“And if they can’t isolate there or they choose to isolate somewhere else, we make other arrangements to put them in a hotel room somewhere where they will have privacy. Not somewhere like a camp in a convention center with seven thousand other people," Noem explains.
The Sioux Falls city council is expected to introduce a city-wide shelter-in-place ordinance at its meeting this week. That process takes a week to finalize and put into effect.