Number of tests doesn’t equal number of people tested, says DOH Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Although information on the U.S. Health and Human Services website says states were to illustrate plans to test a minimum of 2% of their population monthly for coronavirus, South Dakota Health Officials said in recent media briefings that 2% of the population may not equate individuals.

Rather, it’s the number of monthly tests performed should equate 2% of the population, Dr. Josh Clayton and Department of Health Secretary Kim Malsom-Rysdon said on on July 9 and July 13.

South Dakota DOH has a goal of testing 5% of the population but the 5% and 2% are “not a duplicated number of individuals,” Malsom-Rysdon said during a July 9 news briefing.

“We’re talking about (the number) tests performed…,” Clayton said during a July 13 news briefing.

The same person could be tested more than once in a month and those tests would count toward the 5% monthly goal.

Malsom-Rysdon said on July 9 the percentage population goal of testing 5% could be confusing because it’s called 5% of the population.

Yet during a June 25 DOH news briefing, Malsom-Rysdon said the state’s goal would be to test up to 5% of the population or about 44,000 people each month.

The 44,000 people goal would include mass testing at nursing homes, congregate housing, any work site testing and mass testing at tribal lands, Malsom-Rysdon said.

Clayton reported during a July 2 news briefing the state had exceeded the testing goal of 5% with about 48,000 tests conducted. The tests were conducted on at least 30,000 people but not 48,000 individuals.

The HHH said on its website that states were to submit plans to reach the minimum monthly goal of testing 2% of their population in May and June by May 30.

“State plans for testing of SARS-CoV-2 should explicitly detail how a minimum of 2% of the state’s population will be tested each month beginning immediately; as well as plans to increase that number by Fall 2020,” the HHH website said.

Plans from all 50 states are posted on the HHH website,, under a coronavirus segment.

South Dakota’s plan is wordier than those from Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa and North Dakota. It describes in detail the type of testing equipment and capabilities at sites in South Dakota but doesn’t state numbers as applied to population in clear terms.

Minnesota’s plan includes numbers related to the testing of 2% of the population.

“To test 2% of the population in a month requires testing about 3,800 individuals per day. For May 2020 Minnesota has averaged about 5,100 tests analyzed per day; our goal is to reach 20,000 tests/day by the end of June, 2020,” the Minnesota plan said.

One of Iowa’s goals included in its plans is, “To increase the volume of testing which is currently at 66,000 per month or 2,200 per day to 99,000 per month or 3,300 per day.”

North Dakota’s plan included this information:

“The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) has already surpassed the goal of testing 2% of its
population each month. In May, the NDDoH is supporting PCR testing of 2,500 people per day, which
would be 75,000 people (10% of the population). The NDDoH plans to expand this testing to 8,000 tests (diagnostic and serology) per day or 248,000 tests per month (33% of the population) between
diagnostic and serology.”

There are no such examples included in the South Dakota plan.

In April, state officials said it had the capacity to test up to 3,000 people per day and planned on increasing capacity to 5,000 per day.

Based on the numbers posted on the DOH on July 14, the state had completed a total of 92,164 tests which included 84,592 negative tests and 7,572 positive tests. If 92,164 is divided by the 104 total days, which is 13 days in July, 30 days in June and April and 31 days in May, that’s 886.2 tests per day.

But the total of number of tests dates back to at least March 10, when the first positive COVID-19 case in South Dakota was announced. So, if 21 days of testing March are added to 13 days in July and the months of April, May and June, that’s 125 days. Divided 92,164 tests by 125 days, that’s 737.3 tests per day.

Some days the test numbers will be higher than others. And as stated earlier, DOH officials said it reached the 44,000 goal in June, which would indicate a substantially higher number of tests were performed in June than in prior months.

If the state tested up to 44,000 people per month (based on the 5% of the population goal), or completed up to 44,000 tests per month, it would need to test 1,419.35 people per day in July.

In an April 28 story in KELOLAND News by Angela Kennecke, Clayton and Malsom-Rysdon said recent test numbers may have fluctuated because of mass testing at Smithfield and fewer tests being conducted over a weekend.

Kennecke’s story mentioned the Harvard University study that called for testing 21% of the population. Clayton said in the story that the state had the capacity then to test up to 21%.

As of July 14, according to Johns Hopkins, South Dakota’s positive percentage was 5.92% which is higher than the percentage recommended by the World Health Organization.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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