Smithfield, one of the country’s largest producers of pork products, has closed its Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant after nearly 300 employees have become infected with the coronavirus.
The facility’s sick employees represent nearly half of the state’s 793 confirmed cases,The Associated Press reported.
The facility employs 3,700 people and accounts for nearly 5% of the nation’s pork production, CNN reported. Company officials had been trying to keep it open in an effort to feed the nation. It closed for three days last week in an effort to clean and sanitize the facility and install barriers for social distancing.
“The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,” Smithfield president and CEO Kenneth Sullivan said in a statement. “It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running. These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain, first and foremost our nation’s livestock farmers.”
Sick employees have forced meat processing plants in Iowa and Pennsylvania to close, CNN reported.