As pandemic continues, South Dakota looks to test roughly 44,000 people per month Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Through the first four months of the coronavirus pandemic in South Dakota, a total of 8.5% of the population has been tested. As of Thursday, there’s been a total of 75,854 tests reported since March.  

As the pandemic response rolls on, South Dakota Department of Health officials want to test at least 5% of the state’s population each month. With South Dakota’s estimated population of 884,659 for 2019, 5% of the population is around 44,000. 

“We have a multi-prong approach to testing in the state,” Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said in a media update Thursday. Malsam-Rysdon said the goal with COVID-19 testing moving forward is to test around 44,000 people each month with mass testing events to specific populations impacted by the virus. 

Kim Malsam-Rysdon.

As of Thursday, there have been 30,999 COVID-19 tests reported in the month of June with five more days of test results to be added. For comparison, in April, the first full month of testing, there were a total of 13,311 tests reported. In May, 27,100 tests were reported. 

The test result numbers in May and June include mass testing events like the Smithfield Foods employees and families as well as mass testing of nursing home residents and staff. 

DOH officials said mass testing of nursing homes has been completed with more than 16,000 residents and staff being tested. Malsam-Rysdon said 99% of residents and 99.3% staff at nursing homes were tested which resulted in 49 positive cases for residents and 36 for staff.  

Malsam-Rysdon said antibody testing will be available at the public health lab in July and those results will join along with antibody testing at Avera, Sanford and Monumental Health. 

“That will become more of the testing picture in our state,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “It will be useful in the future in understanding COVID in our state.” 

While the state still wants to protect testing resources, Malsam-Rysdon said the state should have the capability to reach the goal of roughly 44,000 tests per month. 

“We’ve seen good changes in the supply chain. We think we have the tools we need to accomplish that testing plan,” she said. 

Along with compiling the testing data, the DOH continues to work with healthcare providers to make sure there is enough testing equipment. In mid March, the state public lab ran out of supplies to perform tests. 

For comparison, North Dakota reports having 99,444 total unique individuals tested. In South Dakota, the number of COVID-19 tests reporting does not include specifics for unique individuals as one person may have been tested multiple times. 

In terms of positive cases, North Dakota has 3,393 positive cases, almost half as many as South Dakota (6,479) — as of Thursday’s data.  

Sen. Thune highlights importance of COVID testing 

In the United States as a whole, total new coronavirus cases reached a single-day record on Wednesday. President Donald Trump says the rise in new cases is because of more testing, but he’s created confusion by suggesting states should stop performing so many COVID-19 tests.  

South Dakota Senator and Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters this week testing is an important part of reopening the country. 

In an emailed statement to KELOLAND News, Sen. Thune said “As I have said from the beginning of this health crisis, testing has been, and will continue to be, an integral part of our fight against the coronavirus. Until we have a vaccine, the more tests that can be made available to states and communities, the closer we can get to normalcy in this country. To be clear, I don’t mean millions of tests. I mean tens of millions of tests nationwide. Congress has invested significantly in enhanced testing, and I will continue to do all I can to ensure South Dakota has the resources it needs in this battle.”

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