No future COVID-19 projections; DOH comments on increased testing Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — As South Dakota continues to set records with coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations, state officials said today that they don’t have any projections for the numbers the state may experience in the future.

South Dakota Department of Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon said during the weekly news conference that projections during the pandemic haven’t been accurate.

The state had originally planned for the possibility of needing 5,000 hospital beds when coronavirus peaked. Also, the peak dates have moved to where in June, DOH officials said a statewide peak was not likely but that the state would have a series of peaks across different locations in the state.

“As it has been since the beginning, COVID is somewhat unpredictable,” Malsam-Rysdon said.

The numbers that are being shared each week are critical to the response, she said. As cases increase, the state would expect to see increases in hospitalizations and other numbers, Malsam-Rysdon said.

“To say because we have this many cases today means we will need this many hospital beds tomorrow just hasn’t been proven or borne out,” Malsam-Rysdon said.

Health experts have said that hospitalization and deaths typically trail behind the new COVID-19 cases.

South Dakota had 876 new COVID-19 cases, three additional deaths for a total of 291 deaths and 52 more hospitalizations for 303 current hospitalized on Oct. 14.

At 288 deaths as of Oct. 13, the state could reach 565 deaths by the end of December. The state has averaged 2.88 or 2.9 deaths a day since Sept. 1. South Dakota had 167 COVID-19 deaths on Sept. 1.

The state’s latest data as posted on Oct. 14 on the South Dakota Department of Health website.

Gov. Kristi Noem said on Oct. 13 that the record number of coronavirus cases posted recently in the state are not unexpected.

“Our record numbers that you are talking about are actually just reflective of the amount of testing we are doing,” Noem said during a question portion of an Oct. 13 news update on the Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg crash.

Noem said the state has tripled its testing which will elevate COVID. “That’s normal, that’s natural, that’s expected,” Noem said. And that for six months she has said that the state could potentially have thousands of new COVID-19 cases in one day.

The state did triple its testing in September as compared to April when a total of 13,311 tests were conducted. The tests reflect the number of people tested. But, the DOH has a goal of conducting a monthly amount of tests equal to 5% of the state’s population. A person could be tested more than once in this count.

DOH epidemiologist Dr. Josh Clayton said as of Oct. 14 that the state was at 120% of its goal to do about 44,000 tests a month.

“We are seeing more testing in South Dakota,” Clayton said.

Some of that increased testing is in point prevalence areas such as nursing home, where more coronavirus cases are expected, Malsam-Rysdon said.

Also, people who may be in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case may be getting tested, Clayton said.

The test positivity rate is decreasing which means the state is practicing good testing stewardship, Malsam-Rysdon said. The 14 day rate is 11.1% as of Oct. 14.

“We are seeing increasing cases, we are seeing increasing testing targeted at those individuals who are at higher risk of infection and that in part, is reflective of case increases that we are seeing,” Clayton said.

Community map shows that many communities are experiencing substantial community spread, Clayton said.

As of Oct. 14, 57 of the state’s 66 counties are listed with substantial community transmission, which is the highest level of community spread. Two counties have minimal spread. The rest have moderate spread.

When media asked about Noem’s comments that South Dakota is an example of how lockdown orders and other restrictions do not control COVID-19 but that South Dakota is showing how to do it, Malsam Rysdon said that the landscape of what states are doing across the nation should be considered.

Malsam-Rysdon said in many situations states that have done lockdowns and additional restrictions in the U.S. have not seen dramatically different results in terms of positive cases, positivity, death rates, at different points in time than what is happening in South Dakota.

But, today, South Dakota remains in second place in terms of cases per 100,000 people and its death rate, according to the New York Times COVID-19 tracker. North Dakota is in first place, Montana is third place.

Minnesota is 18th and bordered by North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, ranked 9th and Wisconsin, ranked fourth.

South Dakota, North Dakota and Iowa do not have mask mandates for public places.

Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin do.

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