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Smithfield to Temporarily Shutter Pork Processing Plant Following Coronavirus Outbreak

Smithfield's plant in South Dakota will close for three days starting April 11.
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A Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in South Dakota is being temporarily closed for cleaning after more than 80 employees at the plant were confirmed to have the coronavirus.

The food processor will close its Sioux Falls facility for three days. The facility will suspend operations in a large section of the plant on April 11 and completely shutter on April 12 and April 13. 

About 3,700 employees work at the plant, which will receive deep cleaning and sanitization. Additional physical barriers to further enhance social distancing will also be installed during the hiatus. 

“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," said CEO Kenneth Sullivan. 

The facility supplies nearly 130 million servings of food per week, according to the company.

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"Together with our peers and supply chain partners, which include millions of American crop and livestock farmers, we feed America," Sullivan said. 

The union representing workers said that there have been more than 120 confirmed infections, according to U.S. News & World Report, a much higher estimate than the 80 workers confirmed by South Dakota health officials.  

While the company noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has concluded that there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of coronavirus, union officials have complained that Smithfield was offering a $500 bonus to hourly employees who did not miss work in April.

Last week, fellow meat packager Tyson Foods  (TSN)  overhauled its work environments to help workers and lessen the spread of coronavirus, leaving some meat and poultry production reduced, the company said.

Tyson now takes the temperature of workers at all locations before they enter company facilities.