PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota National Guard is prepared to assist any way its soldiers can against COVID-19, according to Governor Kristi Noem.

The governor and state Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon answered questions from KELOLAND News about how prepared South Dakota hospitals are for COVID-19 patients, and about the current and future ways the South Dakota National Guard is helping.

Secretary Malsam-Rysdon said hospitals and hospital-bed use are monitored on a daily basis.

“We have approximately 2,300 beds available in the state. We are working with hospitals right now to identify how they can increase those numbers and create surge capacity and what they will need in terms of staffing and equipment to do that,” she said.

Governor Noem has estimated that 30 percent of South Dakotans could contract COVID-19 and one-fifth — “tens of thousands” was how she put it — will show symptoms or need hospital care.

So far, 58 South Dakota residents had tested positive, with one death, according to statistics posted Friday at the South Dakota Department of Health’s website, while 20 have recovered. Nearly all of the remaining positive cases are resting at home, while a few are getting hospital care.

The current forecast is South Dakota cases will peak in late May or early June, Noem warned several times in the past week.

The governor said Friday the South Dakota National Guard has been involved in planning for the situation for months, and a member of the guard is at the state emergency operations center.

State officials are preparing for a worst-case scenario, where South Dakota National Guard units would quickly assist in making available additional medical care, according to Noem.

“We also have brought in more resources for the National Guard to help us with logistics and planning on standing up hospitals and other facilities that we may need to care for people into the future,” Noem said.

The governor continued, “Obviously our National Guard individuals are extremely talented and gifted. We have medical personnel, medics, nurses, that are all part of our National Guard. We’re also very cognizant of the fact that they are more than likely serving in their communities as well, so we don’t want to pull that expertise out of the local community if it’s needed there. Bur we are evaluating all of that.

“Our Adjutant General (Jeff) Marlette has been outstanding in planning purposes, giving us the time frame how quickly they can turn facilities into hospitals and laying out that logistical planning that is incredibly important for us as we plan into the future,” she said.

“Every asset that the National Guard has available has been a part of the analysis of what we can do and how quickly we can do it. And they will be there when we need them. They are ready and waiting,” Noem said.