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Pop-up COVID-19 testing for Smithfield workers, family surges South Dakota cases past 3,500

The South Dakota Department of Health has been posting results in recent days that include those gathered from the recent drive-through testing for Smithfield Foods employees and their families, setting a three-day record for number of tests processed.

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Smithfield foods employees and family members line up to get tested for the coronavirus at a drive-through testing center set up Avera Health and the State of South Dakota at Washington High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Monday, May 4. (Jeremy Fugleberg/Forum News Service)
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A pop-up COVID-19 testing event in Sioux Falls appears to have pushed the number of known cases in South Dakota past 3,500.

The South Dakota Department of Health reported 124 more coronavirus cases in the state, for a total of 3,517 — the bulk of those in Minnehaha and Lincoln counties, home to Sioux Falls, it said Sunday, May 10.

State officials said they tested about 3,200 people at mass testing event at a Sioux Falls high school this past week for any Smithfield Foods employees and family members, whether they had experienced symptoms of the illness or not.

The state Department of Health has been posting results in recent days that include those gathered from the drive-through testing in recent days, setting a three-day test-run record of nearly 3,800.

The testing was the first large-scale testing provided in the state for even those who hadn't shown symptoms of the virus. But state officials said it was necessary to ensure safety of workers going back to work at the Smithfield pork processing plant.


Smithfield has to begun to spool up operations at its plant, just north of the city's downtown, where an outbreak among workers has been linked to 1,098 cases and two deaths. The plant employs 3,700 and is responsible for 5% of the nation's pork supply, but Smithfield closed the plant April 15 as the outbreak worsened.

The plant outbreak, one of the largest in the nation, has hit people of color in the state harder than South Dakota's overwhelmingly white population, because the plant's large workforce is very diverse. While whites make up about 85 percent of the state's population, they're only 30 percent of the state's known COVID-19 cases.

The state, which is tracking those it knows to have caught the virus, said 2,147 have recovered. There are currently 77 South Dakotans hospitalized with the illness, down two from yesterday.

The virus has sent a total of 261 state residents to the hospital and killed 34 — nearly half COVID-19 fatalities in the state were reported in the last 11 days as the virus ravaged several senior care facilities in Sioux Falls. Twenty nine of the fatalities are in Minnehaha County and 20 are age 80 or over.

State, clinical and private labs have processed 23,894 COVID-19 tests in South Dakota. Of those, 3,780 were processed in the past three days. State officials have yet to link the positives tests from the pop-up event to the Smithfield outbreak, but said they may have more information on Monday.

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Jeremy Fugleberg is editor of The Vault, Forum Communications Co.'s home for Midwest history, mysteries, crime and culture. He is also a member of the company's Editorial Advisory Board.
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