Gov. Noem: “Palms-up” conversation on COVID-19 impact in South Dakota


PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — With 187 positive COVID-19 cases in South Dakota, Governor Kristi Noem says the state is in a very fluid situation. This caveat was shared before she released projections for how the virus will impact the state in what she described as a “palms-up conversation” with South Dakotans.

She said the numbers and projections are all agreed by medical experts from Avera, Sanford and Monument health care systems. She reminded people 80 percent of the patients who get the virus will show no or limited symptoms.

Noem said the date and models are very dynamic. She said the data helps the state prepare for a “peak time.” That’s when the most people in the state have the virus at one time.

March 10 South Dakota graph

Noem said thanks to early measures put into place, including social distancing, South Dakota won’t reach a peak until middle of June or end of June. That’s when the most South Dakotans will be sick. She said many of the mitigation measures will need to be maintained until August.

April 3 South Dakota graph

Noem said the state needs to prepare for 70 or 80 percent of the population getting COVID-19, which is up to 600,000 people in South Dakota. She said 5,000 hospital beds will be needed for the peak infection date and 1,300 ventilators will be needed. Noem said people will be in the hospital for COVID-19 long after the peak date.

Gov. Noem says it’s a constant balance to decide how many limits to put on South Dakotans, because restrictions will need to be sustainable until October

South Dakota State Epidemiologist Josh Clayton talked about the various models the state looked at and described the limitations for each model as officials worked on the projection.

Dr. David Basel, Pediatrics and Internal Medicine with Avera, thanked the governor for allowing the state to have open conversations with all the health care providers and the public. He said the power is in the people’s hands.

Dr. Allison Suttle, CMO with Sanford Health, seconded that point saying everyone needs to come together and continue with physical distancing. She called on people to plan ahead for 10 days. She said the more times people go out of the house, the more chances there are to transmit the virus.

Suttle says it will get worse before it gets better, but each person has a part to play.

Noem highlighted the current measures in place need to stay in place until August. She called on people to join together and keep practicing social distancing. She said people who may have the virus and not know it will help so much by just staying home.

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