South Dakota Governor Shuns Stay-At-Home Order As Coronavirus Cases Climb

Wednesday, April 15th 2020, 5:35 am
By: CBS News

Gov. Kristi Noem reiterated Tuesday that she won't be ordering South Dakota residents to stay home amid the coronavirus pandemic, as another 121 confirmed cases were reported in the state. The majority of South Dakota's 988 total cases - 768 - are in Minnehaha County, which includes the Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, the site of one of the largest known clusters of COVID-19 cases in the country. 

CBS affiliate KELO-TV reports Noem said 70% of the county's cases could be traced to the plant: 438 employees and an additional 107 people who had contact with employees have tested positive for the coronavirus.

According to a New York Times analysis, as of Tuesday, the 545 cases made the Smithfield Plant the second largest hotspot in the country, surpassing Chicago's Cook County Jail and trailing only under the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

"What we are doing each and every day by getting up and using personal responsibility and taking actions at the local and state level, it is working," Noem said. "We are flattening our curve in South Dakota."

Despite the numbers, Noem said she would not issue a stay-at-home order for Minnehaha and nearby Lincoln Counties, as Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken requested. Noem said a stay-at-home order wouldn't have made a difference in Sioux Falls because the plant would have remained open as part of a critical infrastructure business.

The company announced Sunday that it would close until future notice, and Noem said she's working with federal leaders and company officials to get it back up and running.

"This plant here is incredibly important, not just to Sioux Falls, not just to South Dakota, but to our nation. It provides our food for us," Noem said.

Noem says the Department of Health does a high level of contact tracing with people who test positive for COVID-19 and the state is isolating people in their homes and at hotels, KELO-TV reported.