First@4: COVID-19 latest; Smithfield report released; weekend racing modified

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Thursday brought several new developments in the COIVD-19 pandemic, here’s an overview at the top stories today.

CDC report on Smithfield Foods highlights communication breakdowns, offers dozens of recommendations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling on Smithfield Foods to make significant changes at its Sioux Falls pork processing plant, which has been shut down for more than a week due to a COVID-19 outbreak. A 15-page report released Thursday morning also appeared to show a lack of transparency from Smithfield. 11 of those pages were recommendations for the plant.

Gov. Noem implores farmers to seek help if needed, wants to reopen Smithfield plant quickly

Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) said she is focused on helping the plant reopen as safely and quickly as possible.

During Thursday’s media briefing on the COVID-19 response in South Dakota, Noem said the South Dakota Department of Health will continue to work with Smithfield.

Noem also said she wanted to speak directly to farmers and ranchers, making it clear COVID-19 has created new challenges for them.

Avera Health also has a free, 24/7, confidential Farm and Rural Stress Hotline at 1-800-691-4336.

COVID-19 update: Recoveries surpass 1,000; 98 new positive cases, deaths remain at 9

South Dakota has nearly 2,000 positive cases of COVID-19 an increase of nearly 100 from Wednesday. The number of deaths in the state remains at nine.

Some positive news, the total number of recoveries passed 1,000 on Thursday.

The Park Jefferson Speedway Open Wheel Nationals racing events will take place Saturday, but there won’t be any fans allowed.

The statement said after having discussions with the South Dakota Department of Health, other state officials and county commissioners a decision to not have spectators was made.

Gov. Tim Walz (D-MN) has ordered Minnesota schools to stay closed through the rest of the academic year amid the COVID-19 crisis. Walz, who is a former teacher, calls it “a heartbreaking decision.” The Democratic governor says he feels sorry for all the students who will miss out on graduations, tournaments and end of year celebrations.

But Walz says the health and safety of Minnesotans is his top priority, so distance learning will continue through the end of this school year.

Walz also outlined his approach for gradually loosening restrictions on Minnesota businesses over time. He says his decision will allow up to 100,000 Minnesotans to return to work in industrial, manufacturing and office settings next Monday.

Ode to senior year

Seniors around Sioux Falls were supposed to be preparing for Prom this weekend, but it’s just another of the long-await traditions that have been canceled for the class of 2020.

Tonight we’re featuring area seniors as the class of 2020 reflects on their incredibly unique last year of high school and how they’re coping with the loss of so many anticipated celebrations. Their story is coming up tonight in Eye On KELOLAND at 10 p.m.

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