The coronavirus-compelled closure of one of the largest US pork processing plants is straining the country’s food supply chain, but the state’s governor is refusing to issue a stay-at-home order.
The Smithfield-owned facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, accounts for four to five per cent of the country’s pork production and employs about 3700 people.
“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,” the meat processor’s chief executive, Kenneth Sullivan, said in a statement.
“It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running.
“These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain.”
South Dakota’s Republican governor, Kristi L. Noem, has so far refused to issue self-isolation orders across the state.
“I have all the faith in the world of the people of South Dakota,” she said.
“They’ve been absolute rock stars in working to protect their communities and their families.”
The South Dakota Medical Association sent Ms Noem a letter last week asking her to issue a stay-at-home order, but there’s no indication she has any plans to reverse course.
So far, the state has 730 cases of COVID-19 and six deaths, with a projected peak on May 1.
Following intense criticism, Ms Noem today issued a limited stay-at-home order for people in the two hardest-hit counties who are aged 65 or over, or who have chronic health conditions.
Ms Noem is one of nine Republican governors, who collectively oversee a population of about nine million, who have refused to follow health advice and issue a lockdown order.
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