SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) –Gov. Kristi Noem says she wants people who are driving through the area where tribes have set up checkpoints to be able to get through unobstructed. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and the Oglala Sioux Tribe have set up COVID-19 checkpoints on roads that are in the tribal lands and those traveling through them including state and federal highways.
The governor said in a Monday COVID-19 news conference that road crews, farmers, ranchers and emergency services need to be able to get through the checkpoints. However when asked by reporters to describe incidents where emergency or essential services were not allowed through, she did not provide specifics. Noem did say that there were cases where people who have ranches, for example, were not allowed through checkpoints.
Noem says there have been conversations with tribes for more than a month. On Friday, May 8, Noem sent a letter to tribal leadership and said tribes had 48 hours to remove checkpoints.
She said on Monday she’s hopeful essential services will continue to move through the checkpoints. She says she’s heard that hasn’t happened in all cases. The governor stated stories she’s heard about what’s happening on the ground are different than what Cheyenne Sioux River Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier has told her is happening.
Noem says conversations with the tribes regarding the checkpoints have been going on for over a month. She says it gets tricky with jurisdictions. She’s hoping to get clarity for everyone involved.
In response to a question about the mass Smithfield-related testing last week in Sioux Falls, Noem says 3,628 samples were collected during the mass testing for Smithfield employees and close contacts. She says about 24% of those samples tested positive for COVID-19.
South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon says the goal of mass testing was to help people know if they are positive so they can isolate. She says the state is using targeted events to not waste resources. Malsam-Rysdon says she was pleased the positive rate wasn’t higher than 24%.
Malsam-Rysdon addressed the efforts at DemKota Ranch Beef Plant in Aberdeen. She says symptom checks are being done and physical barriers are in place between employees. Malsam-Rysdon says health care systems are doing testing of employees and their families. She asks that employers reach out if there are questions about how to keep your business safe.
Noem’s executive order for 65 and older and vulnerable populations Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties expired Monday. She says she consulted local health care officials as part of the decision to let is lapse. Noem advises people at risk to continue staying at home if they can.
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