BEATRICE - A Smithfield pork plant south of Crete continues operating, during the coronavirus pandemic. The plant in Saline County employs about 2,100 workers.

Virginia-based Smithfield announced Monday that its Sioux Falls, South Dakota plant was being closed until further notice. It is one of the largest pork processing plants in the country. Smithfield plans to resume operations in Sioux Falls once further direction is received from local, state and federal officials.

Food production and processing facilities are considered critical industries while the U.S. fights the pandemic. Many plants across the country have had several employees test positive for COVID-19.

In a recorded message, Smithfield Chief Executive Officer Ken Sullivan said the company cannot afford to take a day off, being part of an industry that feeds the world.

"We feed millions of people every day....every, single day. It's a business with no shortcuts and no days off. Most of our team members work side-by-side on production lines in our facilities. We can't stay home, we can't, after all, doesn't get made on the internet. I want you to know that our forty thousand U.S. team members, thousands of American family farmers and other supply chain partners are crucial to our nation's response to COVID-19".

Sullivan said research shows COVID-19 is not a food-borne illness. He said the company has instituted several steps to protect employees.

"We ensure every employee involved in the handling, preparing, processing and transporting of our food products, utilizes appropriate food safety, personal hygiene procedures at all times. This includes frequent sanitization. We routinely employ personal protective equipment, throughout our facilities, which covers employees heads, faces, hands and bodies. At all of our locations, we have enhanced the cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched objects and surfaces. And, we're continuing to stress the importance of personal hygiene".

The CEO says farm suppliers of the company operate under strict biosecurity procedures. Smithfield produces brands such as Smithfield, Eckrich and Nathan’s Famous.

The company has over 40,000 employees nationwide.