PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem said Thursday evening that South Dakota has three more cases of the coronavirus known as Covid-19.
She also said that earlier in the day she had extended her executive order directing many state government employees to continue working remotely next week, rather than go to state buildings for their jobs, and that work-related travel outside South Dakota by state employees would remain banned.
The state Public Health Laboratory resumed testing specimens for Covid-19 Thursday, after running out of testing supplies Monday.
Two men and one woman, all from Beadle County, were the latest to be determined ill with coronavirus Thursday, while 91 tests came back negative. The governor said those numbers were good news.
State Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon stood with Noem at the news conference and said her department’s infectious disease team would be trying to meet with each of the Beadle County three Thursday night, in part to learn of others who had been in contact with them.
Two had reported travel history — “We need to verify that,” Malsam-Rysdon said — and the third’s background wasn’t yet clear. She said one was age 30-39, another was 40-49 and the third 60-69, but she didn’t have information with her about which was the woman and which were the men.
The governor and her health secretary had each other’s back throughout their appearance, with Noem turning to Malsam-Rysdon on details, and Noem stepping in to support Malsam-Rysdon, as the pair have done since the near-daily news conferences began last week.
“We got the results of the tests, and within an hour contacted the patients, worked with the labs to contact the physicians who contacted the patients, and then held this press conference to let people know,” Noem said. “So as we continue to speak with these patients and gather more information, we’ll certainly share what we can and what we’re at liberty to share.”
Beadle County now has four of South Dakota’s 14 positive cases. Noem said there wasn’t evidence yet of community-spread in Beadle, or in Minnehaha County, which has five.
“I have to use the data, the facts that I have, to back up what I say,” Noem said. “So the tests that we have results on determine how I define community-spread in the borders of South Dakota. We also will be sending quite a few of those tests, those low-priority tests, out to get results back from other labs too. So we’re working as hard as we can to get them all processed in a timely manner, so that we can stay atop of what our status is right here in the state.
“So anyone who would definitively say that we do have community-spread would also not be basing that on anything that would be factual at this time. So everything I’m reporting to you is with knowledge that we currently have, based on facts and data,” Noem said.
Bon Homme, Charles Mix, Davison, and McCook counties have one adult apiece who is ill from coronavirus. The one fatality was a Pennington County resident who was in Davison County when he died and hadn’t been to Pennington County for two weeks.
The other 13, including the latest three, are quarantined at home and haven’t been hospitalized.
Malsam-Rysdon said the state lab currently has enough supplies for 100 high-priority tests that she said would be “adequate” for the next several days.
“As the governor indicated, we’re working really, really hard on getting supplies and have some orders that we are hopeful will come in, in the next coming days,” she said.
Noem said the state lab has some low-priority cases that would be sent to commercial labs. Malsam-Rysdon said the commercial labs are located outside South Dakota and recently received federal approval for Covid-19 testing.
Malsam-Rysdon said providers would now be directed to send low-priority tests to the commercial labs, so the state lab could be reserved for high-priority populations, including healthcare workers who might have come into contact with people ill from coronavirus, or regularly work with vulnerable populations.
The state lab’s turnaround time has been 24 hours when supplies were available, while the commercial labs’ timetables would be four to five days, according to Malsam-Rysdon.
There were 270 tests pending at the state lab as of Thursday evening, according to the covid.sd.gov website, which is updated daily. The priority rankings — low, medium and high — are explained there too.