Out of an abundance of caution for its 3,700 employees in Sioux Falls, S.D., a portion of whom have tested positive for COVID-19, Smithfield Foods, Inc. will close its facility for three days. The company will suspend operations in a large section of the plant on April 11 and completely shutter on April 12 and April 13. During this time, essential personnel will repeat the rigorous deep cleaning and sanitization that have been ongoing at the facility and install additional physical barriers to further enhance social distancing. Employees will be paid for any previously scheduled hours during the temporary closure.
"Smithfield Foods is taking the utmost precautions and actions to ensure the health and wellbeing of our employees – with an even increased emphasis on our critical role in the ongoing supply of food to American families. Our Sioux Falls plant supplies nearly 130 million servings of food per week, or about 18 million servings per day, to our country. Our more than 40,000 U.S. team members, thousands of American family farmers and our many other supply chain partners are a crucial part of our nation’s response to COVID-19," says Kenneth M. Sullivan, president and chief executive officer, for Smithfield.
"As an industry and as a nation, it is imperative that we continue to operate our feed mills, farms, plants and distribution centers. Together with our peers and supply chain partners, which include millions of American crop and livestock farmers, we feed America. Not operating is not an option. People need to eat.
"Our government has identified agriculture and food production as critical to the response to COVID-19. They have emphasized over and over again our special responsibility to maintain operations and normal work schedules. They have been explicit: shelter-in-place orders do not apply to us. The reason is obvious. Food is essential for survival and civil society. So, we must produce food for our communities and our countries. It's our obligation and duty to our fellow citizens."
Smithfield has instituted a series of stringent and detailed processes and protocols that follow the strict guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to effectively manage COVID-19 cases in its operations. These include mandatory 14-day COVID-19 related quarantines with pay as an uncompromising effort to protect its dedicated employees. The company has also relaxed attendance policies to eliminate any punitive effect for missing work due to COVID-19 diagnosis or quarantine. In addition, Smithfield is taking many measures to minimize its team members' risks of contracting COVID-19. These include adding extra hand sanitizing stations, boosting personal protective equipment, continuing to stress the importance of personal hygiene, enhancing cleaning and disinfection, expanding employee health benefits, implementing thermal scanning, increasing social distancing, installing plexiglass and other physical barriers and restricting all nonessential visitors.
"All these actions complement the extensive safety measures in place at all our locations and are on top of the extremely hygienic and sanitary environments maintained at all times in our industry for food safety and quality purposes. We're also ensuring employees know how to protect themselves and others from COVID-19 and making certain that they know how COVID-19 spreads. We continue to actively monitor CDC guidance, as well as that of state and local health authorities, and are immediately taking all necessary actions to protect our employees," says Sullivan.
According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19. For more information on how How is Smithfield is minimizing its team members' risks of catching COVID-19, visit the company's COVID-19 response site.