During a press briefing Wednesday, South Dakota Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon confirmed that 80 employees at Smithfield Foods' Sioux Falls plant have tested positive for COVID-19. Since the plant's first case in late-March, Malsam-Rysdon says the state's Department of Health has been in communication with the company on its daily mitigation efforts at the plant.
"We are very grateful for the employer's actions so far and our ability to work with them to minimize the spread of this disease," Malsam-Rysdon says.
In response to COVID-19, Keira Lombardo, executive vice president for Corporate Affairs and Compliance, says Smithfield Foods is taking the utmost precautions and actions to ensure the health and well-being of its employees and all its stakeholders — with an even increased emphasis on its critical role in the ongoing supply of food to American families.
In a company statement, Smithfield says they have 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 any potential 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. They've also relaxed attendance policies to eliminate any punitive effect for missing work due to COVID-19 diagnosis or quarantine.
In addition, they are taking the following measures to minimize team members' risks of catching COVID-19.
- Added extra hand sanitizing stations
- Boosted personal protective equipment
- Continuing to stress importance of personal hygiene
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfection
- Expanded employee health benefits
- Implementing thermal scanning
- Increased social distancing in common areas
- Installed plexiglass barriers
- Restricting all nonessential visitors
The company says all these actions complement the extensive safety measures in place at all of its locations and are on top of the extremely hygienic and sanitary environments maintained at all times in the industry for food safety and quality purposes. They're also ensuring employees know how to protect themselves and others from COVID-19 and making certain that they know how COVID-19 spreads. They plan to 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 employees.
Out of respect for its employees' legal privacy, Smithfield Foods says it will not be confirming COVID-19 cases in its facilities.