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Closings, Cancellations and Delays

Bart Pfankuch, South Dakota News Watch

Smithfield Foods processing plant reopens on a limited basis


Associated Press & News Staff - May 4, 2020

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - A union representing employees at a South Dakota pork processing plant says it will partially reopen Monday after shuttering more than two weeks ago because of a coronavirus outbreak that infected hundreds of employees.

The United Food and Commercial Workers local chapter said Friday that about 250 employees have been asked to report to the Smithfield Foods plant to staff two departments, ground seasoned pork and night cleanup. The union was informed on Thursday about the partial reopening.

Since the first case of COVID-19 at Smithfield Foods was announced on March 26, over a thousand of the 3,700 employees of the plant have confirmed infections and at least two deaths have been reported.

In mid-April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued more than 100 recommendations to the pork-processing plant after going through the plant in mid-April.

Smithfield's managers told the CDC it has a number of changes planned, including requiring facemasks for all employees, increasing the number of hand sanitizers and adding plexiglass barriers where workers can't be spaced out.

Still, 11 of the 15 pages in the CDC report include recommendations for further improvement, such as staggering shifts, more flexibility in break times and physical spacing.

It notes, however, that "recommendations are discretionary and are not required or mandated by CDC."

Smithfield has closed processing plants in South Dakota, Missouri, Wisconsin and Illinois due to widespread COVID-19 infection in plants.



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