Smithfield Foods closes South Dakota facility due to COVID-19 outbreak

Smithfield Foods is closing one of the largest pork processing plants in the country as the company deals with a COVID-19 outbreak at a South Dakota facility.

The plant in Sioux Falls will remain closed indefinitely, the company said.

The shutdown comes after officials initially announced a three-day closure to sanitize the plant and install physical barriers for social distancing as confirmed cases at the plant increased.

Some work will continue on Tuesday at the plant to prep for the shutdown. The company says it will resume operations after receiving direction from government leaders. Workers will be paid for the next two weeks.

In a statement, Smithfield President Kenneth Sullivan warned the virus was pushing the United States' food supply "closer to the edge."

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases are now ubiquitous across our country," Sullivan wrote. "The virus is afflicting communities everywhere. The agriculture and food sectors have not been immune. Numerous plants across the country have COVID-19 positive employees. We have continued to run our facilities for one reason: to sustain our nation’s food supply during this pandemic. We believe it is our obligation to help feed the country, now more than ever. We have a stark choice as a nation: we are either going to produce food or not, even in the face of COVID-19,”

The facility in South Dakota accounts for four to five of U.S. pork production and about 18 million servings of food per day.

The plant employs 3,700 workers.