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CDC assesses opening of Sioux Falls plant



The first cases of coronavirus were confirmed in South Dakota on March 10. Here’s how the virus has spread since.


Federal health officials are hoping to take the first steps toward restarting a Sioux Falls pork processing plant and a coronavirus hotspot.

The Sioux Falls Staff Control and Prevention Center today visits the Smithfield Foods, Inc. plant. They assess the conditions and develop an action plan necessary to safely reopen the crop harvesting facility. pig that has been closed for almost a week, according to the office of Governor Kristi Noem.

“The next steps in the plan depend on feedback from the CDC’s efforts today,” said governor’s communications director Ian Fury on Thursday.

Governor Kristi Noem said Thursday that the state expects to have a CDC report in the coming days, which will be released to the public. The governor also said that she was in close contact with the factory’s CEO and with US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

“We are working closely with the factory to make sure this is a safe environment for employees,” said Noem.

Purchase a photoSmithfield Foods is seen on Thursday April 16, 2020 in Sioux Falls, S.D. The meat packing plant is the country’s largest hotspot for COVID-19. (Photo: Abigail Dollins / Argus Leader)

Joining the CDC during the assessment, which started at 9 a.m., are city and state health officials.

Smithfield Foods did not accept Chef Argus’ request to join the tour, saying that non-essential visitors cannot enter the Sioux Falls plant during the closure.

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“With regard to walking through the factory, all Smithfield facilities and farms operate under strict biosecurity, which currently restricts all non-essential visitors as part of the extensive security measures in place at all of its sites in across the country, “said a statement. from Smithfield’s public relations department.

Smithfield Plant Coronavirus Case

Nearly 600 Smithfield employees in Sioux Falls have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and another 135 confirmed cases have been directly linked to the plant. This prompted the company last week to announce a three-day shutdown to clean up the plant. However, after cases continued to escalate, the mayor of Noem and Sioux Falls, Paul TenHaken, called on Saturday to close the plant for 14 days.

The following day, Smithfield announced the final closure of the plant.

This has worried officials as well as farmers and food consumers, as the closure will stifle the country’s meat supply.

Smithfield Foods Coronavirus Outbreak: Here’s what we know

Purchase a photoSmithfield Foods is seen on Thursday April 16, 2020 in Sioux Falls, S.D. The meat packing plant is the country’s largest hotspot for COVID-19. (Photo: Abigail Dollins / Argus Leader)

Perdue went on social media on Wednesday to say that he is in touch with the governor and that he is helping to get the Smithfield plant running as quickly as possible.

A spokesperson for the United States Department of Agriculture said on Thursday that the secretary understood the critical nature of maintaining the country’s food supply chain while ensuring the safety of employees and food inspectors during the COVID pandemic. -19.

“It also applauds the real commitment and patriotism that our workers in the food supply chain have shown during this time and the work they continue to do day after day,” the statement said. “The USDA recognizes and supports the efforts of industry and private companies to maintain the operational status of their facilities while preserving the safety and health of their workforce. The USDA, in collaboration with the FDA and the CDC, will continue to support an all-American approach to ensuring that the food supply chain remains safe and secure. “

“We have totally disrupted our food chain.” Farmers deal with aftermath of Smithfield closure

The South Dakota congressional delegation and 28 other US senators and agricultural officials called on Thursday Lost to “take immediate action” to provide financial and technical assistance to US pork producers in the event that Smithfield and others meat factories across the country would remain closed beyond

In the letter, which Senator John Thune and Representative Dusty Johnson led the development efforts, members of Congress said they hoped the country’s food supply chain could be restored soon, but farmers have need to be assured that if this is not the case, they will be taken care of.

“However, in the event that producers are unable to plan the harvest of their pigs, we ask you to think about how to use your existing authorizations and the funds available to compensate producers for losses”, reads in the letter.

The letter follows the closure of the Smithfield processing plant in Sioux Falls and the Smithfield processing plant in Martin City, Missouri, which receives raw materials from the South Dakota plant.

On Thursday, 598 Smithfield workers confirmed they had caught the virus, as did 135 of their contacts in Minnehaha County. These individuals account for almost 70% of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Minnehaha County.

Mayor: “Don’t defame” Smithfield employees

Although the city’s role in the factory visit and assessment is primarily peripheral, Dr. Jennifer Tinguely, chief medical officer of health for the Sioux Falls health department, attended the CDC’s visit on Thursday.

Mayor TenHaken has repeatedly said that his office will provide all possible assistance to help reopen the plant, and on Thursday morning urged residents not to “vilify” Smithfield or its employees following the COVID-19 outbreak or let it affect how they are viewed in Sioux Falls.

“Smithfield is not an enemy in this, and Smithfield employees are not enemies in this,” he said. “There is (an) underlying problem of almost treating Smithfield employees as lepers in our community right now, and it is not appropriate. “

TenHaken said that employees continue to be tested and that those infected with the virus are in quarantine.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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