Smithfield Foods is closing its Sioux Falls meatpacking plant indefinitely after hundreds of its employees contracted COVID-19. Over the weekend, Governor Kristi Noem and Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken asked the company to close the plant for at least two weeks.
Smithfield had already announced a three-day closure through Monday to sanitize the plant and add physical barriers. On Saturday, Governor Noem requested the company to follow the recommended 14-day isolation period for potential COVID-19 exposure.
“As well as paid sick time for those infected and symptomatic, to encourage them to stay home in an effort to further prevent spreading of the virus to their family, community members, and the city of Sioux Falls,” Noem said.
Mayor TenHaken points to the rising rates of infection in the city.
“Think about it: every four days we’re doubling the amount of cases in our city. And that’s been the case over the last 16 days,” TenHaken said.
Smithfield employees account for more than half of coronavirus cases in Minnehaha County.
By Sunday, Smithfield announced it will close the Sioux Falls plant indefinitely and continue paying employees for two weeks.
In a statement, Smithfield CEO Ken Sullivan says the closure will impact grocery stores and may be “disastrous” for the nation’s pork producers. The company says the Sioux Falls plant supplies around five percent of the nation’s pork products.