CDC to inspect coronavirus-stricken Smithfield pork processing plant as closures mount

Smithfield CEO Ken Sullivan warned of a possible meat shortage if processing plants are unable to operate

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday will inspect a closed Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in South Dakota that's turned into a coronavirus hot spot, one day after the company announced it's shuttering two more plants.

Smithfield will temporarily close its Cudahy, Wisconsin plant for two weeks. The company will also temporarily shutter its Martin City, Missouri facility -- which employs more than 400 people --  because it needs the raw materials from the Sioux Falls, South Dakota plant to operate.

CORONAVIRUS CASES TIED TO GIANT SOUTH DAKOTA PORK-PROCESSING PLANT SURPASS 500

"Without plants like Sioux Falls running, other further processing facilities like Martin City cannot function," Smithfield CEO Ken Sullivan said in a statement. "This is why our government has named food and agriculture critical infrastructure sectors and called on us to maintain operations and normal work schedules."

Sullivan said Smithfield plants are following CDC guidelines "like the use of thermal scanning, personal protective equipment and physical barriers," plus offering workers paid sick leave.

In this April 9, 2020 file photo employees and family members protest outside a Smithfield Foods processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D. (AP Photo/Stephen Groves File)

Sullivan warned of a possible meat shortage if processing plants are unable to operate, and political heavyweights including South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue have turned their focus toward the Sioux Falls plant.

"I've been visiting with Ken, the CEO of Smithfield, working on a plan to safely reopen the plant and get it back online to bring some relief not only to our agricultural producers, but to make sure that we're continuing to secure our nation's food supply," Noem said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Perdue said in a FOX Business interview on Thursday that he speaks with Sullivan two to three times a day.

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The Sioux Falls plant closed indefinitely on Sunday after pressure from Noem and Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken. More than 500 employees at the plant, one of the largest in the country, and 126 of their close contacts have contracted coronavirus, state health officials said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Smithfield-related cases make up roughly half of South Dakota's total case count, and the cluster is comparable in size to the nearly 600-person outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

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