PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) – Governor Kristi Noem (R-SD) said the COVID-19 hotspot in Minnehaha County linked to Smithfield Foods is now calling for a public health emergency.
New figures released on Friday make the Sioux Falls meat packing plant, which begins a three-day closure, the country’s fourth largest COVID-19 hotspot, according to data compiled by the New York Times.
Noem said 190 positive cases of COVID-19 have been linked to the Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls.
In response to factory workers, Noem ordered South Dakota health secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon to declare a public health emergency in the county.
Most of these 190 cases are employees of Smithfield, said Dr. Joshua Clayton of the South Dakota Department of Health.
Malsam-Rysdon said the public health emergency gives DOH the power to work with the justice system to make sure people who can violate orders such as quarantine or solitary confinement comply.
Noem said the public health emergency is a proactive measure because the positive cases of COVID-19 in Minnehaha County have reached a threshold where more people are involved and more contact with individuals is involved.
The state is devoting resources to responding to the Smithfield hotspot, said Noem.
“We are testing people at a higher rate,” said Noem.
In addition, Smithfield workers are being watched and the state is working to isolate those who may be sick, the governor said.
“We are tracking individuals who are COVID-19 in the community,” said Clayton.
On average, one person with COVID-19 can come into close contact with 10 people, said Clayton.
“There is great advice from the Center for Disease Control on how to prevent COVID-19 for family members,” said Clayton.
The employee base includes residents whose mother tongue is not English.
Noem said in this situation “we are working with interpreters” to ensure that employees and family members understand CDC directives and other information.
Noem said the state is also working with community leaders from Minnehaha County and the Sioux Falls area.
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