Governor says COVID-19 could infect ‘tens of thousands’ of South Dakotans in next eight weeks


PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Department of Health can’t provide specific breakdowns about groups of people who have received COVID-19 tests, such as the number of healthcare workers, an agency spokesman said Monday.

“However, healthcare workers are one of the high priority groups for which the public health lab is prioritizing testing,” communications director Derrick Haskins told KELOLAND News.

He said the department also couldn’t disclose how many specimens came from patients of federal providers such as the Veterans Administration and the Indian Health Service.

“IHS and VA facilities are able to submit specimens for testing to the public health lab,” Haskins said.

Governor Kristi Noem said Monday morning South Dakota had seven new positive tests of the respiratory disease, including the first positive processed at a laboratory outside the state. Among the latest seven were two more in Beadle County.

Beadle had 12 of the 28 positive COVID-19 cases in South Dakota as of Monday morning, according to results the department posts daily at the website.

Noem said Beadle County is the first in South Dakota to have community spread of COVID-19

Six of the 28 patients whose specimens tested positive have recovered. There were 762 negative results and 265 pending as of Monday morning.

Noem told news reporters she likely wouldn’t be able to continue the near-daily pace of briefings for them because the positive cases would likely start increasing.

She said the virus is expected to remain active for “at least” the next eight weeks in South Dakota and that about 30 percent of South Dakotans likely would have COVID-19, but perhaps less than one-fifth would show symptoms or become more than somewhat ill.

“Common sense still needs to prevail. I need every single South Dakotan to be diligent, to be responsible and to think about your neighbors. Being a good community member means that if you are sick, please stay home. If you think you’re infected, call your provider, call your doctor, before going into their emergency room or into their clinic,” Noem said.

“Healthcare worker exposure is a concern, and we have to continue to mitigate the risk by being smart. Now we know this is not just a two-week problem that we’re dealing with here in the state of South Dakota. We have been studying data and facts and science and looking at models that have come from throughout our state, surrounding states that are dealing with this virus in our country, and in other countries, to predict what could happen here in South Dakota,” she continued.

“Our models suggest that up to 30 percent of our population could get sick. That is literally tens of thousands of people in our state. Now I understand that’s scary for some of you, but remember that more than 80 percent of infections are asymptomatic or cause mild illnesses. We need to make smart decisions,” she said.

She added, “Our projections indicate that we will not peak, which means we will continue to increase in positive COVID-19 tests, (until) into May, possibly early June. So we need everyone to stay calm and be patient and to make sure they’re making good decisions for them, for their families and for their neighbors.”

State Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon told reporters there isn’t a vaccine for COVID-19.

Efforts to produce one that might work are at least months away.

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