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Smithfield idles western Illinois pork plant over virus

(WHSV)
Published: Apr. 27, 2020 at 10:30 AM EDT
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A western Illinois pork-processing plant is suspending operations after some of its employees contracted COVID-19.

Smithfield Foods Inc. announced Friday that it will shutter operations at its Monmouth, Illinois, plant beginning Monday and until further notice.

A “small portion” of the plant's 1,700 employees tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, Virginia-based Smithfield announced Friday. The Monmouth plant represents about 3 percent of U.S. fresh pork supplies and also produces bacon. Employees will be paid during the closure, the company said.

Smithfield also has closed meatpacking plants in Cudahy, Wisconsin; Martin City, Missouri; and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Employers have struggled to contain the virus in meatpacking plants, where workers toil side by side on production lines and often share crowded locker rooms, cafeterias and rides to work.

Smithfield said it will continue to provide its workers with personal protective equipment such as masks. Smithfield also has implemented thermal scanning companywide and installed plexiglass and other physical barriers on production floors and in break rooms, it said.