A Smithfield Foods processing plant in South Dakota was forced to close its doors after more than 500 workers tested positive for the virus this month. But Gov. Kristi Noem insists her state's Smithfield plant could reopen very soon.
She said, "I think it could be in a matter of days. ... These are critical infrastructure businesses, they are imperative to our food supply in this country, so I think we need to keep them running, but we also need to protect people."
Many meat processing plants across the nation are facing difficult times amid the pandemic, with more than 5,000 workers falling ill to COVID-19 and at least 13 reported dead.
Three of the U.S.' largest plants have shut down indefinitely. Combined, they account for an estimated 15% of all pork production in the U.S. They are owned by JBS pork processing, Tyson Foods and Smithfield Foods.
Noem made her announcement a day before President Trump signed an executive order designating meat processing plants critical infrastructure, which compels them to remain open.
Last week, the CDC published a slew of guidelines for processing plants like Smithfield Foods. It recommended enforcing six feet of distance between employees and staggering shifts to reduce the number of workers in the plant at one time.
South Dakota is one of the few states without a stay-at-home order amid the coronavirus pandemic.