One Meat Plant. One Thousand Infections.


I came to America Thinking. I can never go through hell. But what if this come to me? This virus is very dangerous. It caught everybody off guard including myself. I was never prepare for New York Times. I'm Michael Barr. This is the daily. Yeah today one of the largest breaks of the corona virus in the. Us has been inside a meat processing plant. In South Dakota my colleague Keelan dickerson speaks with one of its workers As an immigration reporter as soon as I hear that Cova nineteen is starting to spread across country. I start thinking about. Who are the most vulnerable people in this pandemic and right away meat and poultry plants? Come to mind because these facilities tend to be staffed by immigrants. There's GonNa be a lot of pressure on workers to show up for work because they've been deemed essential by the federal government and because of the nature of the work. The facilities are massive and often you have thousands of people working at a single time and they literally stand shoulder to shoulder touching all the time are you there. Oh shoot you just dropped out something happen so I put in touch with a woman named chew. Dang who we did it. Yes we do just to start out shoot. Can you just introduce yourself and tell us what work you do? So Dang I work with Smithfield we produce pork a shoot is shift lead at the Smithfield pork plant in Sioux Falls. South Dakota and I am lead person for one department. Eighth More Conversion to works in the Conversion Department deboning and processing all different cuts of pork. She's thirty five and she's a single mom of three boys. Give give give me a second. Okay my son discount and give me a second who are trying to get their homework done while we talk. So are him back. You're back you're back okay. So how did you come to work at Smithfield? The to go from South Sudan Kenya and to America. Yeah okay So yes I was born in South Sudan but then when I was six years old we had a terrorist attack in the village a shoot was born in Sudan and she became an orphan when she was six years old during the country's civil war and we walked to Kenya and I was in nine hundred ninety in one thousand nine hundred one still. She grew up in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. Where life was really hard They created a school but pretty much people go and sit under the tree because there was no building classroom like that in the beginning her school was shady spot beneath a large tree where children wrote their English lessons with sticks and the dirt. Yeah it seemed like it was normal at the time because we have no any other choice. She often went days without having food or fresh water. A lot of her friends died. She didn't know if she was ever going to leave so she took life one day. At a time I would say it was just surviving because you. You don't know what would happen tomorrow. And then in the year two thousand. Her life changed completely. I got the news that I was going to get a second chance of life. I'M GONNA go to the to the United States. She was chosen for a program that relocated Sudanese orphans. All my God it was a happy is feeling for me. I cannot believe I didn't go to sleep the next day I went to school. I I told my friends. Yeah she moved to. Kansas City started life in America. She graduated High School and started community college and then she starts working as a waitress and then in early twenties doing private security. And then how do you get to Sioux Falls South Dakota how you know I always tell people I moved to Sioux falls for various to reason thinking that I find a man so that was pretty much. Reza right there i. I moved in with my younger son father than we broke up. Okay how did you hear about the Smithfield factory? For the first time he actually told me about it because before I moved here I told him I cannot go a month without a job because a lot of people are relying on me and most importantly my kids so and that's when he told me. Oh Yeah there is a company here Smithville and when you were hearing about it what what were people saying? It was good things. You're start wages with Smithfield was twelve ninety five. That is a very good pay. They have healthcare health insurance so a lot of people cam to Sioux falls because of Smithville and what it was offering to people. I know a lot of the Sudanese families cam here because of Smithfield so when I went and put in my application right in there told me. Okay you start tomorrow well and I started asked operator and for someone who's never heard of Smithfield or been to the plant. Can you just walk through? What exactly it is that. You guys do there so Smithfield. We received life. Hawks slaughter them a cut them into pieces. What I mean by that by cutting off Hams legs are we made Bacon Ham even hot dogs cheese dogs we have. Those are the things we do SMITHVILLE. So is the entire pig that come alive turn into so many things afterwards. And what is a wizard guy? Is the circle knife that goes into this electric. Thank you turn it off and on. And what is it used for? The US was a knife to trim off fat from the loin until this pretty much all meet just mate without fat so picture a massive factory floor with giant chunks of pork zooming by on a conveyor belt and shoot and the other wizard knife operators are responsible for shaving fat off of the meat as it zooms past them. How many pigs are processed there every day? Ten thousand or more pick. That's huge. Yeah and there is possible for four to five percent of all the pork that's produced in the United States so when you first started what did you think of it. How did it go? What did I think of Smithfield? Hard work hard work is what I thought of it. But you're not really thinking of how hard it is. You are thinking of money. You know and everything that you know. Once you get the paycheck you are able to pay for the apartment. You are able to put food on the table. These were the thing that I was thinking. And what was it like for you physically in the beginning starting out once you start doing something for the first time something that you'd never done. Your muscle is rejected bodies when rejected so I was always sore. I was always my risk was sore. My arm will you know when numb though after work I would come home and is like on my shoulder or my wrist and then take Ibuprofen than I did that every night. Wow until one day I went to I eight and I talked to the nurse and the nurse was very nice outgoing and she said you know what? Let me give you this advice. You know this job is a hard work as severe hard work you've been doing. This was a knife for for a year now. And you're hurting your arm hurt. Your shoulder hurt. I would do one job for about a year but after that sign another job that way you have a rotation in your body so she takes us advice and over the next couple years she starts moving around the factory two different jobs she eventually becomes a shift lead and she starts working a lot of overtime usually eleven to twelve hours a day six days a week but it really pays off and she starts to feel comfortable financially. I get paid eighteen seventy an hour. What does that higher hourly wage meant for Your Life? My Boys My All three of them I can give them what I never have Which is a better life at a young age last year? I took them to Disneyworld. That's something that when I read their. I cried but I was. It was a tears of happiness. Brennan my kids. I am American. Buy Papers I bring my kids here and that was something I did. I was so proud of myself between the new salary she's making and the overtime that she's working she's able to move into a bigger apartment with her sons and she's also supporting five family members who are still living in Africa so this job offer me to take care for anybody else. Not just my boys you know. So you're basically supporting nine people on your salary from Smithfield. Yes wow. So that's why I pick up overtime regardless of me being tired every morning when I go to work. I put everything that the company offered me. in order to make sure this food that I'm making doesn't have anything that can go in her and harm someone because you know these. These food or go into families is going to children is going to. Mothers is going to fathers uncles. Aunts everyone around the world working the factory. I'm making food for people around the world I of that every day. It sounds like you take a lot of pride in your job yes I do. Do you remember the first time you heard about the Koran virus? Yeah I was said. It was sometime in January February. We just talking about is kind of like a something that happened in China and is going to stay in China then come the beginning of March it was Seattle and then the next morning I went to work and now everybody works is talking about it but still most of us As refugees immigrants is like. It's probably you know people are maybe just being extra about it right now. Maybe it's not that bad. Viney thinker reacted that way for me. Personally I'm like okay if if it becomes to effect on Light. I've been through so much if this is just like a virus. You're talking to someone who had malaria. You know I survived. That saw like okay. If if it's GonNa be like malaria I can go through. It is just GonNa be like any other thing that I've been through but then on Saturday march twenty first things start to change at Smithfield. When I went to work that morning I saw a lot of people with Cleaning up the the handrails doors bathroom doors with wives and unlike was going on and the one of the people told me I this thing series. Shoot this thing is serious but you know I'm I'm thinking now okay. A hundred fifty to one hundred sixty people in one shift you sitting in the break room to where tables are very small. You have six people in one table. And then later that day she gets an email that time was what I receive an email video from the CEO's Smithfield CEO. Hi I'm Ken Sullivan. President and CEO Smithfield Foods. I'd like to talk to you today about Cova. Nineteen Perron virus so I watched the video from the CEO About this. Virus is not coming from food according to the FDA and CDC. There's no evidence that cove in one thousand nine can be transmitted by food and America Need Food. Ever family need food We don't want people to struggle from hunger let alone a virus families we feed millions of people everyday every single day. It's a business with no shortcuts and no days off. Most of our team members worked side-by-side on production lines in our facilities. We can't stay home. We can't telecommute food after all does not get made on the Internet so our company is. It's not gonNA get shut down. We're here we're always here. We're food company and despite cove in nineteen indeed because of it working around the clock to do what we do best and that's deliver good food responsibly. How did it feel to you to have your job? Deemed essential in the middle of a pandemic when people all over. The country are panicking. Your work is deemed fundamental to keeping the country. Going at one point I was negative about it at one point I was like wow do that mean my life. Don't matter and here I am putting my life. Risk coming to work because People around the world need food but I said okay. I'm just going to have to stay positive and people if people need food and I'm able to do that for them then. I'm just going to put my life to God to protect me and not get sick. Did you announcer just staying home from work and not going. In to be honest I do not. I was just thinking off. No I need this job. I need to keep working so I could support my family and as out thinking about it now and hurt. It hurts that you. You didn't think about yourself We all shop online a lot and finding promo codes. That work isn't easy unless you use honey. The free browser extension backed by Papal. That scans the Internet for the Best Promo Code and automatically attitude heart. Just download honey to your computer shop like normal. Quick the apply coupons button and watched the prices drop. It's one hundred percent free to use and installs in just a few seconds. Get honey for free at join honey dot com slash daily. That's join honey dot com slash daily. I'm Alexandra Lee young and I'm a producer on the daily. When this pandemic reach the United States we knew that we needed to hear from the experts. People like Donald G McNeil Junior from the science desk. Who could give us this? Kind of scientific sobering look at what the pandemic would mean for us around that same time. I also went out just around the corner to my local grocery store and talk to the manager. He was panicked and sleep-deprived literally trembling as I spoke to him and he told me about how this pandemic affects him and his customers at the New York Times. We think it's really important to hear from this full spectrum of voices both the experts from people who are going through what you're going through right now and we can't keep doing this kind of work without the support of New York Times subscribers. So if you'd like to subscribe go to ny times dot com slash subscribe by the end of March hospitals across the country are being overrun by. Kovic Patients Governors start shutting down businesses and ordering people to shelter in their homes. But in South Dakota there are still only a few cova cases and shoot is still going to work until Saturday march. Twenty eighth now Saturday. My superintendents came up around. I would say about three o'clock and he said okay. I want to have a meeting. They asked me if I have any fever. Cough any you know shortness of breath and I say no. I'm doing I'm doing good. And he said one of the machine operator tested positive. Say What while that person? I work with her that morning. For like I will say about fifteen minutes. They said okay. Well you got home because you had close contact with and I'm like really you got. I didn't say it out loud. But I'm thinking being silly and that's when they told me you're going to be under quarantine for the next fourteen days but I'm still going to get paid forty hours. Is that enough for me is not enough for me. As a person who do all the time overtime is like five hundred extra. Five hundred dollars that for me. It covered a lot of things. What do I do? I can't go and get another job but at that time I was told is just two weeks so I'm like okay two weeks I'll be okay. It's still going to drop me back. One step backward but I'll be okay and then Monday night was when I got sick Monday night I went to bed killin. Okay I will about two. Am with the sharp pain. My body is just feel like someone stab me so I went to the bathroom and I said okay. Maybe if I take a shower a cold shower is going to be better so I turn the water on and they just when the water hit my body it feel like a bunch of rocks was getting thrown on my body so I turn the water off. I took the towel to dry myself and my skin. I just couldn't use the towel edges. My skin hurt so like okay. I'm frigging out and then Thursday night. My Body at this point is soy sauce that even walking on pushing myself. I just felt like something heavy. Sit right on my chest now. The fear relief kicked in. Because now I'm having problems breathing. I said okay. If it's going to be better for me I I'm going to stay up. I don't want to sleep because if I go to sleep. Chances are going to be going to wake up. That's when I left my room I came to the living room and just sat there because I said okay. If if I stay in my room I died. I don't want my kids to find me dead in the room. What was that like for you emotionally? I mean what's going through your mind. I went right back to my childhood to everything that I've been through. It live about my kids. If I die by kids will go through the night through the loneliness. You know not having antibiotic check into like a parent's thick break this kiss to this world survive through everything that I went through aside. I haven't had a chance to tell them. They don't know that mom then adult. What that Bob with through all they know is that my mom is a workaholic. She will do anything to give us a better life. That's all they know is not a perfect world. I'd make perfect for that but if I die does world is not perfect more. Sounds like a horrible horrible night. It was it was. It was one of the worst night ever so well shoot is at home sick with the corona virus. The situation at Smithfield is evolving. This smithfield pork processing. Plant is now a corona virus hotspot. More and more of her colleagues are falling ill. How many other cases you hear about among your colleagues a lot a lot. A lot within the the socities community alone. I think we have like at least forty people that I know but in my department I was told that it went up to eighty in one department. Eighty people and how big is your department on a good day? That people were showed up as one hundred and fifty five. The outbreak at that Sioux falls plant is among the worst clusters of corona virus in the country about two hundred fifty workers. They're tested positive for corona virus. Three hundred fifty workers tested positive for covert nineteen and as the days pass. It keeps getting worse. The number of cases skyrockets up to more than four hundred smithfield workers who are sick and the governor calls on the head of the company to stop production one of the nation's largest food processors smithfield foods will close its work processing plant in South Dakota for further cleaning Swan April twelfth. The president of smithfield announces. He's going to close the plant indefinitely and all the workers are San home. This morning there were fears. The nations food supply chain is at a breaking point after more than a dozen major meat processing plants to become Cova nineteen hotspots. Meanwhile food processing plants across the country are getting hit. Hard with Cove Ed. Other major companies like Tyson. Start raising the alarm that they're having trouble producing and delivering food to the nation's grocery stores because of the virus meanwhile president trump announced an executive order to compel meat processing plants to remain open and last week. President trump signs an executive order declaring meat and poultry plants as part of the nation's critical infrastructure as a way to pressure the plants to keep producing food in Sioux falls. The plan is still closed. Smithfield says it will continue to pay workers for forty hours a week until they go back to work and it's speeding up plans to reopen the plant as quickly as possible. But that's also raise questions about whether it can do so safely. How are you feeling? Now physically physically. I feel I feel I feel good. I'm still having a little bit of headache. But you know that's like almost every day when you are a mob and you know not freaking out over it but my favorite this one is still at a hundred and I have no idea why I'm just trying to get it down to like nine denied at least before I call my doctor to go for check in but I cannot afford to stay home for a long time I would give myself a month and if goes after four weeks No it wouldn't be good for me at all. It sounds like as soon as you start feeling better. Your focus goes from your health back to your finances. Yes that is correct. So now my focus is to try to take care of myself as possible to where when this company opened back up. Then I'm ready to go. So that's where my focus is Thank you so much for talking to us about your experience. You're welcome and thank you very much for at least giving me the the voice. A lot of people don't understand the living off the refugee camp. I don't take anything for granted because of what I been through as I am because of what I see happening to other kids. That did not make it but uh Persia they are looking over me. They are watching me and I'm going to make them proud On Friday federal officials said they were investigating. The conditions at the South Dakota Smithfield plan that may have contributed to the outbreak so far more than one thousand infections and two deaths have been linked to the plan and it is scheduled to partially reopen Later today Roses are red social. Distancing makes us blue. Can't be with mom this mother's Day. Don't worry we've got you. Maybe you can't give Mama Hug right now but you can flowers from the BUCO. That's short for bucase. Books are responsibly. Sourced from the world's finest eco-friendly farms even farms on the sides of all. Kino's so buksh flower. Stay longer this mother's Day. Go TO BOOKS DOT COM slash daily. That's B. O. U. S. dot com slash daily and. Use The code daily to save twenty five percents off your entire order yours. What else you need on Friday? The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency approval to the antiviral drug remm disappear making it the first government-sanctioned treatment for those with covert one thousand nine hundred. Now that your company has this emergency use authorization. How quickly will the drug debt to those people who need it? We are grateful and really humbled. Everything's moves so quickly you know it's only been an interview on Sunday with. Cbs The CEO of the drugs manufacturer. Juliet said he was working with federal officials to ensure that the first shipments of the drug reach America's hardest hit communities and hospitals. And we intend to get that to patients In the early part of this next week beginning to work with the government which will determine what cities are most vulnerable and where the patients are the need this medicine. We're going to form a consortium with our seven northeast partner states which by about five billion worth of equipment and supplies that will then increase our market power. When we're buying seven states said they would begin jointly purchasing medical equipment from gloves to ventilators to avoid competing with one another and because the federal stockpile of such equipment is running out. So this consortium I think will help us get the equipment and get it at a better price. The consortium involves New York New Jersey Connecticut. Pennsylvania Delaware Massachusetts and Rhode Island. As of Sunday. There were nearly sixty eight thousand deaths from corona virus in the US and newly two hundred and forty six thousand worldwide. That's it for daily unlikable bar. Hey everyone you know. A lot of things are changing in our professional lives. So linked learning wants to give you a hand with skills that can help you and your career. They have over sixteen thousand courses taught by industry experts. It's great you can learn how to stay engage while working from home or get tips on finding a job from career strategist so keep learning the skills you need to rise to any moment and try one month free at Lincoln learning dot com slash the daily.

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