PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota could soon be testing a person’s saliva to learn if that individual has the coronavirus.
But while the way in which individuals could be tested for COVID-19 will expand, the state does not have any corresponding plan to increase testing from the existing goal, South Dakota Department of Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon said during an Oct. 21 news conference.
Malsam-Rysdon said the state is in contract negotiations with a company that would provide the state with saliva testing. The Secretary said these saliva kits would be used by household members in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual.
The state plans to use PCR testing on saliva.
PCR testing “is considered the gold standard of testing. It is both very reliable and valid. So we know that’s a good way for us to expand our testing options in South Dakota,” Malsam-Rysdon said.
Health experts, including the Mayo Clinic, have said testing is important to help control the spread of the coronavirus. The National Institute on Aging (NIA), a division of the U.S. Health and Human Services, says testing as many people as possible including those who are not showing symptoms. Nearly half of the people who spread COVID-19 do not have symptoms, according to the NIA.
Saliva tests received emergency approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in mid-April. An individual spits into a container. The saliva test detects genetic coronavirus material and according to Health.Harvard.edu, the tests are reliable.
A household person would have the option for at-home saliva testing. The person would get a URL code to order the test. Once they use the test, they send it back to the state, she said.
The at home saliva tests would be focused on household close contacts as a priority to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Malsam-Rysdon said.
In terms of other saliva testing options the state anticipates those would be more readily available to others who may not be close contacts, Malsam-Rysdon said.
Malsam-Rysdon said the state could have more information on a timeline for implementation next week.
South Dakota would be joining several other states in using saliva testing for COVID-19.
The state of Wyoming is using saliva testing. The free tests are available to any resident who wants to know if they have COVID-19, according to the Wyoming Department of Health website. The kits will be mailed to residents who request them and not just for close contacts or symptomatic individuals.
Minnesota is also using saliva testing. According to the Minnesota Department of Health website, saliva testing is free and available to all Minnesotans who believe they need to be tested, with or without symptoms. The state has set up saliva testing locations around South Dakota. Individuals need appointments.
The state has no pending plans to increase COVID-19 testing, Malsam-Rysdon said.
The state submitted plan to the U.S. Health and Human Services with the goal of testing the equivalent of 5% of the state’s population each month, Malsam-Rysdon said.
The 5% goal is more than what the HHS had recommended, she said.
South Dakota is testing more people than what the HHS recommended but the HHS also asked states to start with 2% and increase that by the fall, according to the HHS website.
“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 HHS website said.
“We have definitely surpassed that (5%) in recent months, so far this month there is no change in that trend…,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “You will continue to see us well surpass a 5% mark in testing volume in our state.”
The state continues to focus on testing symptomatic individuals, those in close contact and the vulnerable population, Malsam-Rysdon said.
As of Oct. 21, South Dakota had tested 234,726 people or about 26.5% of the state’s population. The state’s 2019 estimated population was 884,659.
As the state looks to make possible change the plan submitted to the HHS it would entertain changes in the testing goal, Malsam-Rysdon said.
Although South Dakota is surpassing its testing goal, it has tested fewer people on a percentage population basis than Iowa or Minnesota or North Dakota. It has tested more than Wyoming.
Minnesota’s plan said its goal was to reach 20,000 tests per day by the end of June. As of Oct. 21, the state had completed 2,560,520 tests, on 1,708,184 people, according to the Minnesota Department of Health website. That is about 30% of the state’s population.
Minnesota’s estimated 2019 population was 5,639,632.
As of Oct. 21, 1 in 3 Iowans had been tested, according to the Iowa Department of Health. The state has tested 912,512 people or about 29% of the state’s population. The state’s estimated 2019 population was 3,155,070.
North Dakota has tested 275,596 individuals, according to the North Dakota Department of Health, or about 36% of the population. The state’s estimated 2019 population was 762,062.
North Dakota’s testing goal submitted to the HHH was to reach 8,000 tests per day. The test has processed 782,486 tests.
Wyoming has tested 120,127 individuals, according to the Wyoming Department of Health. That equals about 21% of the state’s 2019 estimated population of 578,759.