PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem held a conference call with South Dakota legislators Tuesday night to exchange views on what’s happening at the federal, state and local levels regarding COVID-19.
Noem told reporters Wednesday they talked about questions the lawmakers have been getting in their communities, including cases, hospitalization rates, projections, state government revenue numbers and business challenges.
It was the latest in a series of calls between the governor and legislators. She and members of her cabinet have also been conferring on a regular basis with municipal, county and tribal leaders about COVID-19.
“I want to appreciate their continued engagement and willingness to get on those calls, because they help me communicate with those local communities each and every day. They really are ambassadors for making sure we’re all on the same page as to what the facts are on the ground,” Noem said.
The governor also thanked the South Dakota National Guard for the many roles, such as staffing the emergency operations center and establishing two alternate-care facilities in Sioux Falls and Rapid City.
“They have 25 ambulance teams that are ready — 21 ground teams but they also have four air-support teams. They’re training for medical capability teams was completed yesterday and they have those capability teams ready to go when we should need them,” Noem said.
“They have call centers helping with contact tracing in Sioux Falls and Rapid City, and they’re willing to help expand those if needed. And they also have contingency plans in place if we need help with food distribution, and they’re ready to go at a moment’s notice.
“We knew they would be ready — they always are — but I don’t want anyone to take for granted how blessed we are to have men and women in our South Dakota National Guard. They continue to step up and take care of people and go above and beyond to make sure that they’re continuing to serve in every role that they’re in,” she said.
The governor said the air-support guard are medical-transport teams who would be conducting emergency medical services type of responsibilities across South Dakota, such as bringing patients to hospitals from remote areas, while the ground crews would be helping get patients back and forth to different locations.
The governor also noted it was National Nurses Day. She said estimates show there are more than 10,000 nurses working in South Dakota, including more than 350 who work specifically for state government. “We’re so thankful for every single thing that they do to keep our state healthy,” Noem said. “They’re just really, every day, taking care of individuals, leaving their families.”
The governor said she had a conversation with a nurse last week who had been in isolation for 14 days, away from her small children, who worked in an OB ward but didn’t want to risk spreading the virus outside of the hospital.
“Those kind of sacrifices that people are making, we just many times don’t point to and recognize the real service they’re giving to South Dakota,” Noem said.
The governor said she talked with legislators about the potential need for a special session and she didn’t yet have very clear guidance yet on whether South Dakota would need to hold one or when it would be.
In past weeks she had said the special session likely would be in June before the next state fiscal year starts July 1. She said Wednesday she wasn’t sure it was necessary at this point.
“If we do have the ability through (U.S. Department of) Treasury guidance to utilize some of the federal funds, we may want to come back later, towards September, and make some decisions on what we can do to utilize those funds better and refurbish some of the dollars we may have in other accounts,” she said.
“So that’s the question we need to find out from Treasury when they finalize their guidance to us on how we can use the dollars they’re sending to us, and the legislators’ input into that was very helpful,” she continued.