Smithfield Plant COVID Cases Break 500, Two More Plants Close

April 16, 2020
Centers for Disease Control arrived at Sioux Falls, S.D., facility; CEO warns of pork shortages.

The COVID-19 news keeps getting worse for Smithfield Foods. The pork company announced April 15 the closing of two more plants, while the Centers for Disease Control arrived at its shuttered Sioux Falls, S.D., facility as infections there hit 518.

Smithfield’s CEO warned there could be pork shortages as a result of the closings of his plants and those of other meat processors.

A team from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention arrived in Sioux Falls to help with the Smithfield Foods coronavirus hotspot. In addition to the 518 Smithfield employees who have tested positive, 126 non-employees of the town became infected when they came into contact with an employee of the meat processor, according to the South Dakota Dept. of Health.

The 644 cases in the small city “makes it the largest cluster in the country, according to tracking by the New York Times” -- as reported by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. “The previous top cluster was 585 cases aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt in Guam.”

Smithfield will close its Cudahy, Wis., and Martin City, Mo., facilities this week. The Cudahy dry sausage and bacon plant will shutter for two weeks. Part of the reason for closing the Martin City plant, which employs over 400 people and produces spiral and smoked hams, is because it receives raw material from the Sioux Falls facility, which is closed indefinitely. “Without these raw materials, the facility cannot continue to run,” the company said.

The Cudahy and Martin City facilities also are located near urban areas in which community spread of COVID-19 has been prevalent. A small number of employees at both plants have tested positive for COVID-19. “Employees will be paid for the next two weeks, during which time essential personnel will repeat the rigorous deep cleaning and sanitization that have been ongoing at the facilities.”

With Sioux Falls being one of the largest pork plants in the country, “The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,” said Kenneth Sullivan, Smithfield’s president/CEO.

“It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running,” he continued. “These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain, first and foremost our nation’s livestock farmers. These farmers have nowhere to send their animals.”

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