SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – The number of positive COVID-19 tests has more than quadrupled in the Sioux Falls area in just a week. Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties jumped from 87 cases last Friday to 390 today.
This prompted Gov. Kristi Noem to direct the South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon to declare a public health emergency in Minnehaha County.
Governor Noem says the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Minnehaha County has reached a threshhold where more people are involved and there is a greater risk of coming into contact with the virus. She says the public health emergency is a proactive measure.
“This is an additional enforcement tool that we are going to utilize and make sure that we have all the tools available should we need them in the future,” Gov. Noem said.
By declaring a public health emergency, the Department of Health will have the authority to work with the judicial system if people are violating orders such as quarantining.
“The action today is a preventative step in the event that we have individuals that need to be quarantined who are not cooperating with that effort, and so the next step there would be the issuance of a public health intervention order, that is outlined in statute, if a person does not comply with that order, we will seek judicial enforcement,” Malsam-Rysdon said.
As for Smithfield Foods, Governor Noem says the state is helping the plant keep employees safe.
“We are testing people there at a higher rate, we are monitoring everyone who is going in and out of that facility, and we are working to isolate those folks that are sick, or may have been exposed to the virus and pull them out of the facility and isolate them,” Noem said.
She adds that the meatpacking plant has a diverse workforce and that the Department of Health is working with language specialists to make sure people understand the CDC guidelines.
According to Noem, South Dakota has the lowest hospitalization rate of any state that is keeping record of that information. She says mitigation efforts have been effective.