The largest center of the spread of the Corona virus in the United States

Smith Field 'Pork' Plant: The Story of a Massive Corona Virus Outbreak in the US You've Never Heard

The largest center of the spread of the Corona virus in the United States
The largest center of the spread of the Corona virus in the United States

How did such a large number of Corona virus-infected people in the United States come from a small corner of South Dakota? How did the infection spread in the pork processing factory and many questions still remain to be answered as the company did to protect the staff?

On the afternoon of March 25, Julia opened her laptop and logged on to a fake Facebook account. They created this account in middle school to secretly keep an eye on their favorite boys.

But now, after so many years, this account is about to help them achieve a very serious purpose.
Julia sent this message from her account to local newspaper 'Argus Leader' Facebook account 'Argus 911' Please can you find out what is happening in Smithfield? There is one person confirmed to Covd 19 but they still intend to keep Smith Field open. '

From Smith Field, Julia means Smith Pork Processing Plant located in their hometown of Sioux Falls (South Dakota).

Built in a sprawling eight-storey white building on the banks of the Big Sue, the factory is the ninth largest facility in the United States where pork products are made differently. On a normal day, every day, 19500 pigs are cut into pieces, made of costumes, hot dogs, bacon and ham.

The factory employs 3700 employees and is the fourth largest employment center in the city.

The Argus 19 account wrote to Julia in reply: 'Thank you for the tip. The employee whose corona test came out positive, what do they do? '

Julia wrote 'I don't know.'

Argus replied, 'Well, thank you. We will contact you again. '

The next day at 7:35 pm, the Argus Leader posted this story on their website: 'Corona virus confirmed by an employee of Smith Field Foods.
The reporter testified through a company spokeswoman that in fact one of the employees had been confirmed with the Corona virus and was placed in quarantine for 14 days.

The company's spokeswoman also said that the employee's workplace and other locations were "thoroughly sterilized," but that the plant, considered by the Trump administration to be an "important part of the infrastructure industry." , Will continue to operate.
In an online video statement March 19 explaining the decision to keep the factory open, Smith Field CEO Kenneth Sullivan said, "Food is an integral part of our lives, and our American home of 40,000 people. Team members, thousands of American farmers' families and many other partners in our supply chain - All of these are an important part of our nation's response to tackling Code 19. '

"We are taking the most precautionary measures to ensure the health and well-being of our employees and buyers," he added.

But Julia was terrified.

Recalling that, she says, 'There have been rumors before. I especially heard about people in Smithfield coming to the hospital. '
Julia does not work in the factory. They are between 20 and 30 years old and go to university. They are at home due to the closure of the university because of Cod 19. His parents have long been employed at Smith Field and are very close to their parents. Julia's parents tell her what's going on in the factory these days.


Julia is one of the adult employees of the factory employees. Many of them are first-generation immigrants and many call themselves Smith Field Children. That's why they plan to talk about the outbreak.

'My parents don't know English,' says Julia. They cannot advocate. Someone has to raise their voice. ”

Like many other families in Hundred Falls, Julia's family made every effort to protect themselves from illness. He used to stay home for the holidays of the year. After coming to work, they took off their shoes and went straight for a bath, to protect their head and nose, Julia had bought them from the Walmart store.

To keep everyone healthy, Julia planned to inform the media so that she could shut the plant under public pressure and keep her parents at home.
But on the contrary, the next three weeks have been a time of great anxiety and anxiety. His mother and father could not afford to lose a job. So they worked for three consecutive weeks in a factory that they knew could contain the virus.

He worked on production lines less than a foot away from his peers. Locked rooms, walkways and cafeterias, full of employees, passed them everywhere.

During that time, the number of cases confirmed by the corona virus among Smithfield employees increased from 80 to 190 and then 238.
By the time Smith Field finally closed under pressure from the Governor's Office in South Dakota, the plant had become the number one hot spot for the Corona virus in the United States. The number of people affected by Smith Field employees and Cody 19 had risen to 644.

In all, Smithfield-related infections account for 55% of the total population in the state, and that number is much higher than in neighboring states.

According to the New York Times, the number of Smith Field Foods cases surpassed the USS Theodore Rose Welt Ship and the Cook County Jail in Chicago, Illinois.
The figures were released one day after the death of the first Smithfield employee at the hospital. The employee's wife, Angelieta, told the BBC in Spanish: 'They had the virus from there. Before that they were very healthy. '

Angeletta also said, "Not only will my husband and many more people die."

This state, led by the Republican leadership, is one of the five US states where no shelter has been issued.

The global outbreak of the Corona virus has uncovered a social divide in the state.

While many white salaried employees across the country are living in safe shelters and working from home, employees in the food industry, such as Smith Field, must work in dangerous environments.
Eddie Toomer, affiliated with the Brookings Institute, says, "These jobs pay less than the average job in the whole of the United States. So all the helpers, cashiers, etc. at home have to work on their own, and most of these employees African-American or Hispanic. "

The vast majority of Smithfield's employees are immigrants and refugees who hail from places like Myanmar, Ethiopia, Nepal, Congo and El Salvador.
The plant has 80 different languages ​​spoken. The average hourly wage is estimated at $ 14 to $ 16 an hour. These hours are long, hard work is hard and often standing on a production line means you are less than a foot away from your co-workers from both sides.

The BBC spoke to more than half a dozen current and former employees of Smithfield, who said they were afraid to go to work and choosing one of the jobs and health has been an impossible choice.

One 25-year-old employee, whose wife is eight months pregnant, said: 'I have to make a lot of payments. My baby is born so I have to work. I am very upset because if my Corona virus test comes out positive, I will not be able to save my wife. '
There are reports of corona virus outbreaks at food processing plants across the country, which could disrupt the US food supply chain. The JBS mate packing plant in Colorado had to close after killing five employees and 103 confirmed cases. Two employees of the Tyson Foods plant in Iowa were killed, while 148 were sick.

The closure of a major meat processing facility, such as Hundred Falls, causes widespread disruption to the supply chain. 550 farmers selling pigs to the 100 Falls plant now have no place to sell livestock.
Announcing the closure of the factory, Smithfield's CEO warned of 'dire' catastrophic consequences in relation to the meat supply.

But according to Smithfield employees, their union representatives, and supporters of the immigrant community in Hundred Falls, the plant could have been prevented.

They alleged that requests for safety equipment were initially ignored, sick workers were told to keep working and information about the spread of the virus was prevented from reaching them, despite knowing that these individuals Family and other people can be affected.
According to Spanish-language news sources, Nancy Renza, the founder of Kyaw Pasaw Falls, said she had been listening to distressed employees of Smithfield for weeks. Nancy asks 'If the federal government wants the company to work, then whose responsibility is it to make sure these companies are doing everything they need to do to protect employees?'

The BBC submitted a detailed list of its questions and workers' allegations to Smith Field, but the company declined to comment on the allegations, calling them individual matters.
"First and foremost, the health and safety of employees and communities is our top priority," the company statement said. Following the strict directive of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we launched a series of stringent protocols from February to early March to effectively address any possible case of Code 19 in our factory. Can be arranged with. '

The outbreak has greatly affected people like Julia. His mother suffers from chronic illnesses. And Julia is terrified to think that her parents were risking their lives to keep jobs.
Crying she says, 'My parents are everything to me. I had to think about living without them. I want to tell people about what is happening here so that there is a track record of what the company is not doing. '

Ahmed first saw Neela on the Smith Field floor during one of his shifts. He liked the blue and Ahmed smiled at Ahmed. When Ahmed started asking about Neela, he found out that they were both from the same village in Ethiopia and they both spoke the same language, 'Oromo'.
Recalling, Ahmed says, 'I was so excited. During my breaks I kept trying to find out where she works. I stopped near the line. I said hello, what's going on? I told her she was beautiful. '

Ahmed took Neela to a modern-day American restaurant. Then they both took a week's vacation to the Wisconsin Deals. They both fell in love and got married.

Now Nila is eight months pregnant with her first child. Although Neela quit working at Smith Field in December, Ahmed continued to work during the outbreak, though he feared he would be infected by his wife and child.
Neela had difficulty walking in his third quarter, so he needed Ahmed's help. They cannot be separated from one another.

Ahmed says that Corona has been confirmed by two of his friends at the plant. Then the symptoms started to appear on their own.

Nila says 'Smith Field doesn't care about employees, they only worry about their money.'
According to Cooper Caraway, president of Hundred Falls AFL, CIO, union officials contacted the Smithfield administration in early March to take several measures to protect workers, including shifts and lunch systems. Schedules are included.

These measures can accommodate up to 500 employees at the factory's cafeteria at a time. Cooper said he also requested personal protective clothing, which included masks and overcoats, temperature checks at doors and cleaning stations.
According to Cooper, 'this is the case before any employee gets a positive test. But the administration pulled its hands and did not take the demands of the workers seriously. '
Tim was hiring new ones at the factory when he first heard about the case with someone sitting next to him. But he says the company went silent after this initial announcement.

"We haven't heard any more about the outbreak of the corona virus," he says. We thought it was good. '

Then on April 8, the South Dakota State Health Department confirmed that there were 80 certified Corona virus patients in the plant. Several employees told the BBC that they received all this information from media reports rather than the Smithfield administration.
Julia's mother, Helen, says: 'I learned about other people being infected with the virus in my department through other colleagues.'

A temperature test station was set up at the factory main entrance under a white tent, but according to both Renzo and Caraway, they were told that high-temperature workers were allowed to come to the factory anyway. According to Helen, if employees wanted to avoid temperature testing, they could enter the other side of the door.
But Smithfield introduced several other changes, including cardboard barriers, shift shifts, and hand sanitizers at each station to create barriers for employees. But several employees reported and photos sent to the BBC appear to confirm that the protective equipment they were given to wear on the face was like a beard net. And could not be protected from airborne particles like surgical or N95 masks.

"I haven't read anything from the CDC that says a hair net will work great on your face," Caraway said.

Smith Field did not answer questions about the beard net, nor did it provide details about the supply of protective equipment to workers, but instead wrote, "Despite pressure on the supply chain, we use thermal scanning equipment and Working round the clock to get the mask. Both of these things are not available in the market. '


The JBS plant is located in Warrington, Minnesota, about 30 minutes away from Hundred Falls.
According to the Star Tribune, union representatives here reported that their company provided employees with 'gloves, surgical masks, facial protective shields and overcoats'.

There has been no case of Corona virus yet. A Tyson Foods spokeswoman told the New York Times that if any of their employees had been in contact with someone who had been confirmed to be infected with the virus, they would have to notify employees according to their company policy.
Some employees started bringing masks with them to the plant. Others started living apart from the family.

Caleb has been working in the Smithfield for 12 years. He told the BBC that for the past two weeks he has been living alone in a room away from his wife, six-month-old daughter and three-year-old son, because he fears he may have a virus home with him every day. Not bringing

'When I lock the door inside, my little son keeps knocking on the door' Daddy, do you want to come out? 'I tell him,' Go with your mom. '

Caleb says, 'I have no choice. What can I do? I want to save my family. '
If employees like Caleb leave the job, they will not be able to join the unemployed list. According to lawyers, many frightened employees are contacting those who fear they may face charges if they apply to join the unemployed list, and thus the Trump administration's enforcement last year. Under the new rule, they may be disqualified for permanent residence.

The Corona Virus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (Cares) Act does not include anyone who is part of a family where no one is living without documentation.
Executive Director of South Dakota Voices for Peace and Immigration Lawyer, Tanizah Islam, explains, 'They are not qualified for anything. Have to choose. '

On April 9, after 80 cases, Smith Field issued a statement stating that the plant would be closed for three days for thorough cleaning on Easter weekend and would begin work on Tuesday.

The statement added that "the company will suspend operations on a large part of the plant on April 11 and the factory will be completely closed on April 12 and April 13."
But the BBC found out through interviews with employees and lawyers that Smith Field also called employees for work on those three days. Renoza picked up several videos in which the car-filled company parking lot and employees could be seen entering the plant.

According to Caraway, he found that about 60-65 percent of the plant was working, meaning hundreds of employees were working.
Tim told the BBC on Monday after the Easter weekend 'I have not stopped working yet. I worked Friday, Saturday, Sunday and they want me to return to work today. I'm nervous I have no words to describe my condition. But I have to spend four children. The roof over my head is because of this income. '

Saw Falls Mayor Paul Tan Hicken said he was impressed and satisfied with the mitigation efforts at Smith Field. He admitted he was particularly surprised when he found out that the plant was still open and working.
He said 'the steps they were taking could have been more transparent. The message that went up to the public did not match the original plan. ”

Smithfield offered employees a $ 500 bonus to keep working on their shift by the end of the month.

Sarah Talon, who works with the Children of Smith Field, says her mother had previously decided she would not go back to work, but upon hearing about the bonus, she changed her mind.

"It's very disturbing to us that she only wants to go back to work for $ 500," Talon said.

In its statement, Smithfield said the bonus is part of Smithfield's #ThankafoodWorker initiative. He added that 'the employees who are unable to work due to the risk or assessment of Cod 19 risk will also be given a bonus.'

Due to a partial incomplete shutdown and a growing number of plant-related cases, on April 11, South Dakota governors Christie I-9 and Tan Hicken sent Smith Field a joint letter, which sent them to 14 operations. Was asked to take a day break.
The next day, Smithfield's leadership announced that they would comply with it from April 15, meaning there was another day of work at the plant.

Caraway says: 'Last Tuesday, employees going to work were paid twice the usual wages, but there was no good cleaning. They were still working in a dirty building. '

When cleaned at a hundred Falls factory, Smith Field did not respond to questions about it. They just wrote, 'Our facilities are thoroughly cleaned every day.'

What is the Smith Field?
  The largest pork processing company in the world

           Established in 1936 in Smithfield, Virginia
          It is owned by billionaire Wan Long, CEO of the Chinese company WH Group Limited
         (In 2018) the number of employees is 54000 and sales of 15 billion sales
·        Further facilities are located in Germany, Romania, Mexico, Poland and the United Kingdom
          WHH Group bought Smith Field in 2013 for $ 4.7 billion

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