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CDC: 25% of Smithfield employees in Sioux Falls contracted COVID-19 during spring outbreak

smithfield testing avera 1.jpg
Smithfield foods employees and family members line up to get tested for the coronavirus at a drive-through testing center set up Avera Health and the State of South Dakota at Washington High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Monday, May 4. (Jeremy Fugleberg/Forum News Service)
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PIERRE, S.D. — Almost 26% of the employees at Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls tested positive for COVID-19 during an outbreak March 16 to April 25.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday, Aug. 6, released another report providing more information on the outbreak in which 929 employees of 3,635 became infected.

The report said 25.6% of the employees tested positive: “Overall, 48 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized, including 39 employees and nine contacts. Two employees died; no contacts died.”

The pork processing facility shut down April 15 to allow for an investigation, per the South Dakota Department of Health’s request.

“Cases among employees and their contacts declined to approximately 10 per day within 7 days of facility closure. SARS-CoV-2 can spread rapidly in meat processing facilities because of the close proximity of workstations and prolonged contact between employees,” the report states.

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On April 23, a report was released on the conditions of Smithfield’s facility and COVID-19 mitigation efforts, which recommended that the plant make better efforts to translate information on how employees should report symptoms and how to protect themselves from COVID-19, along with methods to provide and maintain a more sanitized workplace.

Overall, South Dakota’s death toll as of Thursday, Aug. 6, is at 141, with four more deaths being reported since Wednesday.

Three women in their 80s and another woman in her 70s died of COVID-19, according to state health officials.

The state saw an increase of 105 new positive cases since Wednesday, which brings the total overall positive cases to 9,273. Of those positive cases, 8,145 have recovered.

There are 987 active COVID-19 cases in the state, and 44 people are hospitalized with the virus.

A total of 1,200 tests were reported Thursday.

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