South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem responded to a press conference Tuesday that an outbreak of coronavirus outbreaks at the Smithfield Foods building in Sioux Falls may not have been blocked by a home rule.
South Dakota Governor Noem said the order to place the focus only on the surrounding community would not come from his office. As of Tuesday, 438 Smithfield workers in Sioux Falls had been screened for coronavirus, and the plant, one of the largest pig rehabilitation centers, is permanently closed.
“I have seen some national news written that a shelter would have prevented the outbreak in Smithfield. That is absolutely untrue,” South Dakota Governor Noem said. The governor says even with a broader mandate, the plant would remain open because of its status as a major food supplier. “This is a critical area of employment,” he said.
South Dakota Governor Noem is one of the few governors who has refused to issue an order to stay at home, rejecting a request from Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken.
“This may be a local decision the mayor and city council may choose,” Noem said.
TenHaken said they may have taken the initiative on their own, but the legal process to change the bylaws took about a week, while the governor was able to do it quickly.
“The first reading on Wednesday night and the second reading next Tuesday may change,” TenHaken said Tuesday.
Noem is facing increasing scrutiny by not placing orders. Instead, he spoke about his state’s role in testing hydroxychloroquine – an antimalarial drug that is not approved for coronavirus therapy and may not be safe or effective.
“We will continue to make the mistake of helping every single person deal with the virus and are determined to fight it and make it better to go home to their families,” Noem said.
Smithfield is one of the only protein plants to be banned nationally, and the closure brings the country “on the edge with regard to our meat supply,” chief executive Kenneth Sullivan said.
“It is impossible to keep it in our grocery stores if our plants do not work,” he said. “The closure of the facility will have serious, possibly harmful, consequences for many who are available.”