SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended that the operators of a South Dakota meatpacking plant where nearly 800 workers contracted the coronavirus implement a strict social distancing policy and find ways to overcome language barriers.
The CDC memo specifically addressed the situation at the Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls but that also may give an indication of the broader recommendations that the agency is working on for meat processing plants nationwide. Smithfield closed the plant indefinitely because of the outbreak and faced complaints that it wasn’t doing enough to protect its workers.
More than 40 languages were spoken at the plant, and CDC officials said management told them this made it difficult to communicate guidance to employees. The agency recommended that Smithfield post signs with pictograms and in more languages to communicate vital information to employees.
The CDC memo also stresses the importance of workers wearing personal protective equipment, including face shields, and of rearranging parts of the plant to accommodate social distancing.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said she would like to see the plant reopen as soon as possible.
Smithfield Foods, which is based in Virginia, has not indicated when it might reopen the plant, which produces about 5% of the country’s pork supply.