PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Public Health Laboratory has received one shipment of re-agents and enzymes and will be getting another, as testing of Covid-19 specimens resumed Thursday.
Governor Kristi Noem made the announcement shortly before 11 a.m as she spoke to about 60 state and some federal employees at the emergency operations center in the Mickelson Criminal Justice Center amphitheater.
The lab had stopped checking specimens Monday after supplies ran out and more couldn’t be obtained.
Noem thanked the workers and said South Dakota has tested a larger share of its population than neighboring states have, and there have been fewer positive test results in South Dakota.
“So we’re in a good position, and I think it’s because we worked so well. And people took it seriously, a lot of personal responsibility, to make sure we’re at the point we’re at today,” she said.
The governor’s office planned to hold a news conference later Thursday to announce the latest results. The numbers as of mid-day remained 11 positive, 551 negative and 385 pending.
“Everybody’s so quiet,” the governor said as she made her way down the center aisle of steps to the front of the room.
“Shhhh,” a male voice replied, causing her to laugh.
“I just wanted to stop by and thank you all for your hard work taking care of the people of South Dakota. You’ve all been absolutely amazing and I know that we’ve been into this now for several weeks,” Noem told the group.
She said South Dakota’s planning for Covid-19 started in January and a partial EOC opened February 10. The full EOC opened last week.
“You all have been hands on deck now for quite some time. I just appreciate your commitment, your dedication to your jobs,” she said. She asked the news reporters to turn their cameras around to show the group. “For the media and the press that are here and for those watching at home, these are the people that are making sure that you are put first each and every day. These are the folks that are up all night responding to the calls that we get from providers, to businesses that are trying to make decisions, from setting up opportunities to keep people isolated when necessary, but also getting test results back, couriers that are carrying tests back and forth to the public health lab.
“In this room is all different kinds of agencies, but also people who stepped up and gone above and beyond to serve South Dakota. So I’m just here to tell you all, thank you. And I’m also gonna let you know, we’re not done, we may be doing this for a few more weeks, we may be doing this for five more weeks, we don’t necessarily know, but I will tell you that the work that you’ve done is working, that in South Dakota we’ve been very successful at making sure that we’re containing the spread of the virus.
“We do anticipate that now that we have re-agents and enzymes back into our public health lab today, they will be testing again today and processing samples that have come in from across the state, that we do anticipate that we’ll have more positive results from those tests. But what you’ve allowed us to do by your work of responding to the people of South Dakota, is for us to contain that, to bend the curve, so our healthcare providers and individuals in this room and throughout the state are able to respond and take care of people.”
Noem called the group “rock stars.”
She said the White House and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday “expedited” re-agents to South Dakota. “They did arrive here today, so the public health lab — I know, we should all be cheering,” she said, “and we are going to be processing those tests today and getting them completed. As of today we have 11 positive test cases in the state of South Dakota. That’s fantastic.”
Projections had South Dakota experiencing community spread by March 13, based on what was happening in other states and other countries, Noem said. “That did not happen. So the fact that we do not have community spread is good, good news for us, because that means we’ve slowed down this process and it’s given us the opportunity to get other commercial labs ready to start getting up and going, and it’s allowed our healthcare providers to get the supplies that they need and to put infrastructure in place to make sure that we can respond going into the following weeks, and we’re just so grateful for your work doing that,” she said.
She added, “I know this is not necessarily something that’s over this week, that we’ll be doing this for some time and get the opportunities to spend a lot of time together, but just know that you’re appreciated, and I want the people of South Dakota to know your commitment as well.”
Noem recalled being in the same room last spring during flooding. “We’re tough. We meet challenging times together, and that makes me so proud of all of us.”
State Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon was also at the front of the room.
“The governor has been all hands on deck with her own resources, herself, her team. We have the full support of Governor Noem and her team, and that’s really important,” Malsam-Rysdon told the group. “Keep up the great work, you guys. We’re trying to get some relief staffing in, so that we can stay refreshed, stay charged. We will have a long haul here and it’s important that we take care of ourselves.”
Noem said South Dakota has another shipments of re-agents on the way. She said the samples at the public lab would be prioritized by risk level — high, moderate or low — and the healthcare providers have been “amazing.” She thanked Sanford, Avera, Monument, Veterans Administration, Indian Health Service, small clinics and regional hospitals for working with state government.
“This is all brand new to them, and they’ve overstaffed and helped their people get the samples that we need, do it correctly, so that we can rely on information that we’re getting, and it’s been great. Throughout the state, the partnerships that we’ve had have been just fantastic,” Noem said.
Malsam-Rysdon said communication is key: “Making sure that we’re getting accurate facts out, that we’re pushing out guidance that we’re getting from our federal partners, so people can be doing the best thing possible at the time.”
Noem asked the group to make known if they need anything. “We’ve got a lot of folks across the state that want to come help back you up when you need a rest, if you need some time, your family needs some time, let us know. We appreciate you being here.”