South Dakota Governor Rejects Stay-at-Home Order During Pandemic

April 15, 2020 Updated: April 15, 2020

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said she will not be issuing a stay-at-home order amid the CCP virus pandemic after more than 100 more cases were confirmed in the state.

Most of the patients—768 out of the state’s 988 total cases—are in Minnehaha County, which includes the Smithfield Foods pork processing facility that was forced to shutter. More than 200 cases of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, a type of novel coronavirus, have been detected among the plant’s workers.

“What we are doing each and every day by getting up and using personal responsibility and taking actions at the local and state level, it is working,” Noem said on Tuesday. “We are flattening our curve in South Dakota.”

She noted that 70 percent of Minnehaha County’s cases are tied to the plant operated by Smithfield Foods, which is owned by a Chinese meat and food processing firm based in Henan Province.

“We have 438 employees there that have tested positive for COVID-19, we also have 107 that are their contacts, who became positive because of being family members, friends, or in contact with those employees,” Noem added. Reports have noted that it is one of the largest outbreak clusters reported in the United States so far.

A shelter-in-place order would not have prevented the CCP virus outbreak at the plant, she said. Food processing workers are considered essential in other states with stay-at-home orders.

Some leaders in the state have called on Noem to issue the order. More than 40 governors have issued respective statewide stay-at-home orders in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

Some of the products of Smithfield Foods
Some of the products of Smithfield Foods are displayed in front at a news conference on WH Group’s IPO in Hong Kong on April 14, 2014. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

“I don’t believe it is appropriate considering the data, facts, and science that we have,” Noem said. “I do know that the mayor has some tools available, and that can be a local decision that he and the city council can take, if they choose to do, as far as me taking action to put a shelter in place in Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties, I will not be doing that today.”

Smithfield, meanwhile, said it would shutter its facility indefinitely after the outbreak at its plant in Sioux Falls.

“The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,” Smithfield’s chief executive, Kenneth Sullivan, said in a statement on Sunday. The plant accounts for between 4 to 5 percent of all U.S. pork production, employing about 3,700 workers.

“It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running,” Sullivan said, warning that the U.S. meat supply might be imperiled during the pandemic. “These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain.”