Argus Leader letters to the editor for April 12:
The hero workers at Smithfield
We have heard many stories regarding the heroic actions of health care workers during the current global coronavirus pandemic. We are grateful for their sacrifices. We are now learning more about another group of heroes in our own community, the hero workers at the Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in Sioux Falls.
The meat packing industry and its employees are considered part of a “critical infrastructure industry” and are instructed by the federal government to continue operation. The risk to employee health became clear when we learned two weeks ago of a confirmed coronavirus case at the plant. And now more than two weeks later and 80 confirmed cases later, Smithfield CEO Ken Sullivan has announced they are taking immediate action to protect their workers. If they were truly acting “out of an abundance of caution,” they should have acted at least two weeks ago assuming we can believe the limited information we are getting.
Now Sullivan has announced a three-day plant closure to ‘sanitized’ the processing plant. As someone who grew up working in a family livestock operation, I understand the pain that can be caused by the closing of a processing plant. However, if the health and safety of plant workers are our number one priority, I question whether a three-day closure will be enough. Where will we be a month from now if the plant reopens and the virus continues to spread?
For their efforts, Smithfield employees will be receiving a $500 dollar “responsibility bonus.” Also, good news if you get sick with the virus Sullivan announced that you won’t be punished for missing work.
South Dakota’s Health Secretary just announced that they have done contract tracing with the current 80 confirmed coronavirus cases and “at this point we do not feel that there is a risk to folks outside of the individuals impacted.” That statement just doesn’t pass the swallow test. I have been inside the John Morrell plant and we need to ask if we can really control this contagious virus in a facility that requires many people working closely together. We should ask that question so we can protect the workers, the heroes.
— Michael Galm, Sioux Falls
‘No children’ policy hurts single parents
I would like to make a challenge to our community and its leaders:
Could we reconsider the “no children” policy every retailer that provides necessary supplies has adopted?
This policy puts single parents, especially those with small children and children with special needs, in a bind. This policy is supposed to encourage more social distancing, but how exactly is that supposed to work for these families? They have the same needs as the rest of us, but with the additional burden of not having anyone in their household to watch their young child/children. Just like any family in our state, if the person who is shopping is exposed, then the whole family will be exposed. But additionally, if they are forced to take their child to another home to be watched while they get supplies, instead of risking the health of one household you are now risking the health of two. Otherwise their options would be leaving a child in a car seat in the car while they shop, or having “latchkey” kids with no supervision. Remember this is not about convenience, this is about getting the essentials for daily life.
Perhaps the stores could at least allow children who can ride in shopping carts. Or perhaps someone in the community can come up with a no contact home delivery system to help these families. Or perhaps there is another answer. That is my challenge: find a way to make this situation more bearable for those who were already struggling before the pandemic.
— Scott Stubbe, Sioux Falls
Thankful for daily briefings
President Donald Trump’s daily press briefings with the White House coronavirus task force have become a major topic of discussion around the country. Cable news pundits, journalists and editorial writers are all weighing in on style, substance, effectiveness and their political impact on the President’s re-election.
Closer here at home, Governor Noem has held daily press briefings as well. The mayors of Sioux Falls and Rapid City, our state’s two largest cities, are holding regular media briefings and members of our congressional delegation have stayed connected to the media and their constitutions via telephone townhalls.
It’s understandable that as Americans and South Dakotans we’ll have diverging opinions on the content presented in these briefings, their impact and even on the length of them. Personally, it’s hard for me to argue with those who recommend the White House briefing should be slimmed to 30-45 minutes each day. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, “be sincere, be brief, be seated.” But regardless, we should all be thankful for the fact that our leaders are taking the time, on a regular basis, to inform the public through the media and taking tough questions. The world is changing rapidly but the freedom of the press enshrined in the First Amendment still stands.
Answering to the public and media is not a given in many other countries. Authoritarian leaders aren’t submitting themselves to this daily ritual. The Hungarian Prime Minister can now rule by decree – essentially shredding their democratic checks and balances. I doubt he’s taking many questions from reporters or appearing on their version of Meet the Press. Government leaders around the globe have responded to this pandemic by flexing the muscle of government – even in open and free democracies like our own. Never did I ever imagine in my lifetime we would see federal, state and local government reach in and control our daily life in the manner they have. Which is why it’s critical that government leaders continue to keep us informed and don’t dodge the cameras or the questions. It’s an essential part of holding them accountable. It creates a record that we can look back on and grade them on later. And it increases transparency. We are creating new ways to connect with each other all the time but there’s no substitute for seeing reporters asking questions and leaders responding in real time.
So we can argue with decisions made, policies implemented. We can complain about briefing technique, manner and length. But let’s be grateful that we have a First Amendment and leaders who respect us, and our freedoms, enough to step up to the microphone on a regular basis.
— Joshua Shields is a public affairs strategist and former adviser to elected officials including Sen. John Thune and Gov. Kristi Noem. He’s from Pierre.
What’s the point of garbage ordinance?
So, the city council must be bored. Now they come up with an ordinance that we are to put our garbage cans by the curb, so the garbage haulers don’t have to walk so far. What about the famous saying “which way is the wind blowing today?” This is South Dakota, the wind will open those lids and blow every thing all over town. Or tip them over. What is a few extra feet for someone that is fit to walk compared to a person that cannot walk or needs a walker, or has COPD or some other health issue that keeps them from dragging that wheeled can down to the end of the driveway? Maybe a council person would like to ride along and see how garbage haulers actually do their jobs. We appreciate our haulers, they work in all weather, unless a blizzard. If our garbage company would want us to take the garbage and recycle down to the driveway that is up to them, not city council. I do not see city garbage trucks anywhere in this city. Stay out of private companies business.
— Kay Nelson, Sioux Falls
Every day should be for prayer
Prayer should have been our first priority. When the 911 disaster happened, people were praying in the streets, schools, and the churches, even through the media the whole world stopped to pray. We prayed unceasingly. I do not see that now. We have a venue that can be used to call all together daily to make a cry for Gods hand to give strength to the care givers, consolation to the grieving, comfort to the fearful, Mercy and hope for the world. But we are not using it. I know the governor of South Dakota is asking for a day of prayer but we need to ask for daily prayer.
— Reta Janssen, Doon, Iowa
Trust elected officials and stay hopeful
On April 5th, the Argus Leader reported that a Sioux Falls family made signs to inspire hope during the COVID-19 quarantine. As the news continues to be flooded with increased incidence of COVID-19 cases, death counts, and rapidly changing guidance regarding how South Dakotans are supposed to respond to the current public health crisis, it is important that we remain hopeful.
While public health and government officials remain vigilant, working to determine optimal ways to keep our families, communities, state, nation and world safe from the current pandemic, it is our job as community members to be positive and trust in those we have elected as leaders and invested in as scientists.
As a public health student at the University of California, Berkeley and a Sioux Falls native, I see the pandemic as an opportunity for South Dakota to demonstrate how compassion, faith, and collaboration of a sometimes-overlooked state can lead in this time of global crisis.
Our state need not follow what the coasts have instituted for policy, nor need we panic or lose hope. South Dakota is an outlier with regard to our response to the pandemic due to our low population density, the strength and influence of our local health systems, and our unique ability to be resilient in a time of fear. We are one of five states who have yet to shelter in place. I understand that, at one point in time, we had the fewest number of cases of any state, and we have more hospital beds per capita than any other state.
I am not suggesting policy change nor am I promoting the decisions made for our state so far, however, I am asking that our community trust those we elected into office and that we remain hopeful about the future. This pandemic is as much about mental health as it is about physical health. Physicians and healthcare workers are nobly doing their part to address the physical aspect of the disease. The community must do our part in supporting and uplifting one another even as we are physically distant.
How we engage with our community in a physically distant and respectful manner can really make a difference moving forward. From one community member to another, I am asking that residents of Sioux Falls be leaders for South Dakota and the nation by continuing to be creative, resilient, and hopeful in a time of global crisis.
— Katie Patrick, Sioux Falls resident and UC Berkeley undergraduate
Close down the state, Governor Noem
Governor Kristi Noem put forth the reason she has not issued a statewide stay-at home or shelter-in-place order by stating the obvious, “South Dakota is not New York City.” This is, of course, true. We don’t have the population New York has, the confined spaces of the city where a square block can contain more people than the entire city of Sioux Falls, or the problems associated with millions of people living in one city. But I would suggest we have just as much in common with New York as she claims we don’t.
We have people dying in South Dakota from coronavirus and they are not less dead because we have wide open spaces with a sparse population density. By her own predictions and the “experts” advising her, 30-70 percent of our population or 260,00-600,000 people will be affected by the virus and yet she invokes “states’ rights” to defend her decision not to impede the rights of our citizens to make poor decisions about social distancing .
I guess what I’m trying to say is we need more than a cheerleader leading us with expressions of “Stay with me. Hang in there everybody. We will get through this together.” We don’t need a leader that leads from the playbook of our current president who denies the severity of the coronavirus and expresses his doubts about the need for social distancing. If Governor Noem is sincerely interested in those among us, “…who will get infected with the coronavirus but will not get better,” she needs to issue a statewide stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order if for no other reason than to protect people from making poor decisions for themselves and their neighbors.
— Donald Baird, Sioux Falls
Country’s division has never been greater
I sit here as an 80s+ retired citizen and find myself perplexed at our current situation of fear for a virus which is plaguing our nation and divided politically to the point of stupidity.
I am old enough to remember the unity of this great nation during WW II. I do not remember Pearl Harbor (I was just 5), but I vividly remember VJ Day.
I heard of the Japanese surrender on the radio and went to tell my mother who was hanging clothes on the line, stopped, dropped the piece she was hanging and screamed and jumped for joy! She had four brothers in the service and my father had two brothers and two sisters (nurses) in the service at that time
Though I was a pre-teen farm boy, I cannot recall division within the country such as we have now, especially in the halls of Congress and the bureaucracies that have evolved as a result of government growth – some justified; many not.
And the real driving force for division is the hatred of our president, Donald Trump. He has proven that the qualities he developed as a successful business man are far more effective than the overlapping jurisdictions of self-generated bureaus and above all, the Democratic congressional delegation that has only and agenda of obstruction and removal of President Trump.
In the business community I don’t see a fight between those who stop their current production and begin making face masks, ventilators, medical products or who can transport products to which locations. There seems to be a coordination of efforts (undoubtedly with some agency input) to produce and distribute where it’s most needed and utilized, and – no lawsuits of barraging conference delays. At least it appears that way to an old farm boy who left it 66 years ago.
I would hope that the efforts at problem solving and health and life saving efforts we see now can continue as we go forward from this terrible episode of our lives to a peaceful and productive era for all.. Thank You!
— Ronald L Lamberty, Sioux Falls, SD
Stay-at-home order wouldn’t help
A ‘stay-at-home’ order would do nothing to reduce the infection risk in Sioux Falls. Grocery stores would still be open, and that is where the largest crowds are now. All the order would do is criminalize behavior such as riding a bike on the bike trail, which has an infinitesimal chance of spreading the disease. The most effective thing we could do to protect Sioux Falls is to test people coming in from other places and isolate them if necessary. But the logistics of doing that would be daunting. But let’s not do the wrong thing for the sake of doing something. I have emailed Gov. Noem supporting her and suggest fellow readers who agree with me do the same.
— Paul Morais, Sioux Falls
Reaction to virus overblown
In view of all places to eat being closed, all bars, all entertainment, all sports, we are already staying at home since there is nothing out there. Factories cannot close since millions of dollars of supplies must be processed or the business cannot survive. The answer is testing in order to identify the carriers who experience no sense of being ill. Closing down the nation can only be done for a very short period of time. South Dakota has experienced, what (six) deaths?. The obit are full of names of people dying from all kinds of illnesses unrelated to the coronavirus. Most of us survive the virus, not so with the 1918 outbreak. The elderly and ill only need to stay home.
— Daniel Johnson, Watertown
Credit to Noem for not encroaching on freedoms
The only way to “achieve” zero death is through zero life. If no people exist, no one can die. But people do exist, and to sustain their lives they must think, act, create, produce, and trade — each man to the best of his ability. The prerequisite is that he is free to do so, especially when the stakes are high.
Yet the “zero death” standard is being used to rationalize the expansion of governmental power. Government is a necessary good — when it protects individual rights and does not invert that responsibility. The only means of survival we have in this crisis is capitalism and liberty, leaving people free to think and produce. (Liberty does not mean freedom to do anything you want to against others and bear no consequences for your actions; that is anarchy.) Economically decimating people’s lives, livelihoods, and businesses — any business — will not lead to salvation. In fact, it will precipitate more misery and death.
At least as of now, here in South Dakota we are still free. That is a result of courage and bravery that is rare in today’s leaders. To this extent (and assuming it is not later betrayed), I praise and support Governor Kristi Noem. From a recent, official address of hers:
“The people themselves are primarily responsible for their [health] safety. They are the ones entrusted with expansive freedoms — they are free to exercise their rights to work, worship, and play — or to stay at home, or to conduct social distancing. … My responsibility is to respect the rights of the people who elected me, and to manage our state operations in a way that reflects the realities of what we have here on the ground.”
— Michael Fusco, Sioux Falls
Smithfield has failed its workers
Smithfield Sioux Falls pork plant and its corporate leadership were already having their ways with its workforce, as most of them are refugees. These workers don’t complain much as they are happy to be alive, have roofs over their heads, foods to eat, clothes to wear and make better lives for their children. However; as a society, we owe them a safe work environment. Smithfield Sioux Falls pork plant and corporate leadership have failed to do so.
Since March 26, Smithfield Sioux Falls plant has kept its employees working as nothing was happening in regards to COVID-19. I have talked to many employees and their family members (on the phone) and they were not given any information about the spread within the plant. They found out about the 80 positive cases like rest of us, from media.
The positive 80 cases from the plant means unintended consequences for their family members and general public in Sioux Falls. Now the company wants to shut down the plant only for 3 days, starting April 11. I call this a joke.
Smithfield has shown careless and reckless attitude toward its employees, their family members and general population of Sioux Falls. The company should be ordered to shut down at least for 14 days. Our governor might be able to do it on the ground of “public health crisis.” The company should be ordered to pay all employees a full paycheck during these 14 days shut down. The paycheck during this shut down should be based on an employee’s most recent paycheck.
State Department of Health should do testing for all employees at this plant including their immediate family members as well as anyone else the employees came in contact within last two weeks.
Buckle up Sioux Falls, the next two weeks are going to be tough as we see the number of positive cases increase and you all can point to this Smithfield pork plant. Please direct your frustration to the right direction (leadership of the company and our state and local governments) and please do not start a “war on immigration” over this. These workers are as scared as you are. They are the victims of “corporate greed” and “bottom line”. I beg you to show some empathy to these workers when blaming someone for this outbreak. We need to take care of each other as a community and do not let a Chinese company’s greed tear us apart during these challenging times. Thank you.
— Shamsul (Ruble) Pataray, Sioux Falls
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