Apr 16, 2020 - Health

South Dakota pork plant becomes largest coronavirus hot spot in U.S.

A Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., is the largest single hotspot of coronavirus cases in the U.S., according to the New York Times.

Why it matters: At least 644 cases of the virus have been traced back to the plant, and its sick employees make up around 44% of the state's diagnoses.

  • The plant, which accounts for 4–5% of all pork production in the U.S. and employs approximately 3,700 workers, closed last week.
  • Many of Smithfield's employees are non-English speaking immigrants, though Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken said hospitals in the city have translators that can help screen patients, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports.

The big picture: Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have traveled to the city to assess how the outbreak spiraled out of control.

  • Sioux Falls is the state's largest city with a population of around 190,750.
  • Despite the outbreak, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has refused to order residents to stay at home, NBC reports.
  • The plant was staffed with essential workers, so a stay-at-home order would not necessarily have prevented the outbreak at the plant.
  • The South Dakota Department of Health coronavirus models project that 30% of the state’s population is expected to contract the virus, the Leader reports.

The state has so far reported 1,168 cases and 6 deaths from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Go deeper: The coronavirus chain reaction

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