More than half of all recorded coronavirus cases in South Dakota involve people of color, according to updated data from the state’s department of health on Wednesday.
The state reported that 54 percent of those who have contracted the virus are either black, Hispanic, Asian or Native American. By comparison, those four demographic groups make up about 20 percent of the state’s population, according to the 2019 census.
South Dakota Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon said at a Tuesday news conference that the statistics are “indicative of where we’ve seen the most cases,” the Rapid City Journal reported. The official had said earlier this month before the data was released that the state wasn't seeing "a large racial disparity" in cases.
Though the trend follows that of other states, a significant portion of South Dakota’s recorded cases are tied to a specific workplace.
Earlier this month, it was reported that more than 800 people at the Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in Sioux Falls tested positive for the disease. About 90 percent of South Dakota’s 2,313 positive cases are in Minnehaha and Lincoln counties, which surround Sioux Falls. About half of those cases are linked to Smithfield Foods.
BJ Motley, a union leader with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), told the Rapid City Journal that the discrepancies are “probably because of the diversity down at the plant.” Motley told the Journal that about 80 percent of workers at the plant are minorities.
The UFCW did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Hill.
The union has sent a slew of demands to the Trump administration since the start of the outbreaks at Smithfield and other meat plants. On Tuesday, President TrumpDonald TrumpWendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Senate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Former acting Defense secretary under Trump met with Jan. 6 committee: report MORE announced an executive order using the Defense Production Act to reopen meat processing plants.
The UFCW is asking the administration to pair the order with action that protects meat plant workers and has asked to be considered for prioritized testing.
“We urge the Administration to immediately enact clear and enforceable safety standards that compel all meatpacking companies to provide the highest level of protective equipment through access to the federal stockpile of PPE, ensure daily testing is available for workers and their communities, enforce physical distancing at all plants, and provide full paid sick leave for any workers who are infected,” the UFCW said in a statement Tuesday.