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CDC publishes Smithfield Foods COVID-19 report

Published: Aug. 6, 2020 at 7:10 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 7, 2020 at 7:43 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Smithfield Foods appears much different than last March, according to their Union President B.J. Motley.

“Social distancing and sanitizing are the norms. They’ve got 80 to 90 monitors there so they make sure to have different signs to show, you know, to stay apart,” said Motley.

Last May, it was reported that just over 800 employees tested positive for COVID-19. But a new report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the coronavirus outbreak att the Sioux Falls plant was larger than initially reported. That report reads 929 employees who contracted the COVID-19 virus. The number of those closely related to an employee differed by 35 individuals.

The variation concerns State Representative Linda Duba.

"But we still have a differential, so it's interesting to note that and know how we could have been so far off in our numbers," said Duba.

"Sometimes it'd be a lag of information. You know that from the health department giving notice to the company and the company, getting reports and feeding it back to them," said Motley.

One thing missing in the report addressed previously: improving communication for the many languages spoken.

"It's one thing to speak English. It's another thing to read English. And so, yes I was concerned," said Duba.

Union representatives say an app designed to send messages in many languages has been offered, but only a small fraction of employees are using it, citing difficulty implementing the app.

As the Union President, Motley visits Smithfield daily to observe the workplace and talk to employees. Although some employees are still fearful of contracting the virus, others have found their fears subsiding.

Duba believes the CDC’s findings could be applied elsewhere. It describes the close proximity of employees less than six feet apart for prolonged periods to be a contributing factor to the quick spread of the virus at Smithfield Foods.

“This should be a case study for any working environment where people are in close contact, you know, do I want to take it to the level that says what’s it going to be like in school possibly because obviously, we are going to have people in small spaces close together,” she said.

In the last month, there have been no new positive cases among Smithfield workers.

Copyright 2020 Dakota News Now. All rights reserved.

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