Noem’s office notifies area media that it’s not happy with recent USA Today story

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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Gov. Kristi Noem’s office took issue with national coverage of COVID-19 cases in South Dakota and notified local media about it.

Maggie Seidel, the senior advisor and policy director for Noem said in an email to KELOLAND News and other media outlets that, in general, the Nov. 14 USA Today story by Joel Shannon story was not accurate and misleading when it included comments from doctors who describe the situation with COVID-19 in South Dakota and North Dakota.

The story focuses on COVID-19 data from South Dakota and North Dakota and includes comments and analysis from health care doctors, two of whom say the situation in the Dakotas is among the worst in the world.

Seidel specifically mentioned the quote “The Dakotas are as a bad as it gets anywhere in the world for COVID-19,” from the USA Today story.

The quote is from Dr. William Haseltine, the chairman and president of ACCESS Health International. Haseltine was an instructor at Harvard Medical School and is noted for his work on treatment for HIV/AIDS and human genome.

Seidel said that South Dakota doesn’t break the top 10 when it comes to death rate per 100,000 residents.

Haseltine and Dr. Ali Mokdad, of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle, said in the USA Today story that a lack of restrictions in South Dakota and North Dakota and ignoring health measures that have worked in other states have contributed greatly to the dire situation in those two states.

“States that have had much harsher restrictions than South Dakota are suffering spikes and greater fatality rates at the same time. South Dakota’s case-fatality rate is the 7th lowest in the country,” Seidel said in her email.

Seidel is correct on the state’s death rate not cracking the top 10 but it’s not the seventh lowest, according to Statistica.

South Dakota’s COVID-19 death rate per 100,000 is 73 deaths per 100,000 people as of Nov. 16, according to Statistica. That’s lower than the top three of New Jersey, 187; New York, 175; and Massachusetts, 150.

North Dakota cracks the top eight with 97.

The New York Times data tracker also says South Dakota has 76 deaths per 100,000 people.

Seidel pointed out that while South Dakota’s COVID-19 cases have risen, cases have also risen in other states.

But how does South Dakota’s case rate compare to other states?

Hospitalizations have steadily increased in South Dakota since Sept. 1, according to the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.

The state’s coronavirus cases have increased enough to secure a top three place in the nation.

South Dakota has 161.1 COVID-19 cases per 100,000, which is second in the nation as of Nov. 16, according to the New York Times coronavirus tracker website.

Statistica, the source cited by Seidel for death rates in the state, lists South Dakota as second in the nation for the number of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people.

“Over the past week, there has been an average of 1,425 cases per day, an increase of 23 percent from the average two weeks earlier,” the New York Times COVID-19 tracker said on the website.

“Since so few will present all the raw data, here’s where things stand in South Dakota. We’ve had roughly 63k positives tests since March. Today, there are about 18k active cases. And 644 have died,” Seidel said in her email. “We have 560 in the hospital – about 20% of our hospital capacity is Covid-related, 43% is non-Covid-related, and 36% of our beds are available. It’s important to note that this data says nothing about who is in the hospital with Covid versus from Covid.

KELOLAND News and numerous outlets in South Dakota report daily updates from the South Dakota Department of Health.

The daily updates show significant growth in most COVID-19 categories in the state since Sept. 30.

COVIDactnow reports the state’s percent positive rate is 22% with an infection rate of 1.12.

The state had a .92% COVID-19 fatality rate as of Nov. 1, according to the Mayo Clinic. The rate was .98% as of Nov. 15.

New cases per day in South Dakota have been trending upward since Sept. 30.

Seidel cited one day of COVID-19 rates in the states of Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. All three states have had mask mandates. And Seidel said because cases in states with mask mandates have increased, it’s proof that harsh restrictions and even mask mandates are not the final solution to COVID-19 and that a one size fits all approach do not work.

Seidel is correct that cases in each state have increased as compared to two weeks ago.

Seidel cited a record number of COVID-19 cases, 8,703, reported in Minnesota on Saturday, Nov. 14. But she did not cite the day’s report included a record number of tests at 52,311, according to multiple media reports.

While cases have increased in Wisconsin and Minnesota, their deaths per 100,000 rates are lower than South Dakota’s 73 deaths. Illinois’s per capita death rate is 88, which is lower than North Dakota’s 97, which is also cited in the USA Today story. Minnesota is 53 and Wisconsin’s is 47, according to Statistica.

Hospitalizations have also increased in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois but not as much as South Dakota through Nov. 1, according to the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.

In Wisconsin, “Over the past week, there has been an average of 6,859 cases per day, an increase of 48% from the average two weeks earlier,” the New York Times coronavirus tracker website said.

Wisconsin’s fatality rate was 1.0% and the percent positive rate was 5.5% on Oct. 1, according to the Mayo Clinic. One month later, the fatality rate was .85% and the percent positive rate was 7.29%, according to the Mayo Clinic. The fatality rate on Nov. 15. was .80% and the percent positive rate was 8.54%.

The state’s fatality rate in Illinois was 2.9% and the percent positive rate was 5.21% on Oct. 1, according to the Mayo Clinic. The percent positive increased to 5.42% on Nov. 1 and the fatality rate declined to 2.31%. On Nov. 15, the percent positive rate increased to 6.32% while the fatality rate decreased to 1.87.%

Illinois has had a 91% increase in cases from the average two weeks earlier, the New York Times COVID tracker said on Nov. 15.

Minnesota has had the largest increase of the three states. “Over the past week, there has been an average of 6,103 cases per day, an increase of 153% from the average two weeks earlier,” the New York Times coronavirus tracker website said on Nov. 16.

Minnesota has had a mask mandate for several months. The state’s death rate was 2.04% on Oct. 1, according to the Mayo Clinic and the percent positive rate was 4.87% and 2,055,888 total tests have been conducted. The death rate for Nov. 16 was 1.30% and the percent positive rate was 6.65%.


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