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WH Group's Smithfield Foods closes meat processing plant amid COVID-19

Smithfield Foods Inc. said April 9 that it will close its meat processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D., for three days after a portion of its 3,700 employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

The company, which is owned by Hong Kong-based WH Group Ltd., said it will suspend operations in a large section of the plant on April 11 and completely shut down on April 12 and April 13.

During the closure, the company said it will conduct rigorous deep cleaning and sanitization and install additional physical barriers to further enhance social distancing.

Affected employees will be paid for any previously scheduled hours during the temporary closure, Smithfield said.

READ MORE: Sign up for our weekly coronavirus newsletter here, and read our latest coverage on the crisis here.

The plant supplies nearly 130 million servings of food per week or about 18 million servings per day, to the U.S.

Smithfield President and CEO Kenneth Sullivan said the plant will continue to operate following the cleanup measures as the government has identified agriculture and food production as critical to the response to COVID-19.

"Not operating is not an option. People need to eat," Sullivan said.