Noem: COVID-19 testing not required for Smithfield employees

Published: May. 4, 2020 at 11:38 AM CDT
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UPDATE, 3 p.m.

Gov. Kristi Noem said in a briefing Monday that COVID-19 testing is not required for Smithfield Foods employees to go back to work.

State officials worked with Avera Health to perform a mass testing event for Smithfield and employees and their families at Washington High School beginning Monday.

Noem said that employees are not required to take a COVID-19 test before returning to work. She said that decision was made by Smithfield Foods.

A team from the Centers for Disease Control performed another walk-through at the plant Monday morning. The CDC

to Smithfield on steps they should take before reopening.

Smithfield Foods did not share its plan to comply with those guidelines with the state, Noem said, a decision she called "disappointing."

The governor said in her talks with Smithfield leaders, the plant plans on bringing employees back in "stages." She said the company does not expect to return to normal operations for several more days.

Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said the state will consider more mass testing events in the future. However, she said she does not expect universal, on-demand testing to be available anytime soon.


Smithfield Foods employees lined up in their cars Monday to get tested for COVID-19 as the plant begins to take its first steps toward reopening.

Avera Health established a testing site for Smithfield Foods employees at Washington High School on Monday.

Dozens of cars could be seen lined up Monday morning at that testing site. Mayor Paul TenHaken said while the site is currently just for Smithfield employees and their families, it may open to others later this week.

The Smithfield Foods plant temporarily closed last month after a major COVID-19 outbreak at the facility sickened over 800 workers. Two employees died from the disease.

Two departments opened Monday at the plant, according to the Associated Press. Meat processing plants across the country are cautiously reopening after President Donald Trump’s executive order last week classified them as critical infrastructure.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)