South Dakota National Guard activated to help with COVID-19 testing efforts


PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Nine soldiers with the South Dakota National Guard are helping Monument Health with COVID-19 testing in the western part of the state.

The soldiers were activated to Belle Fourche, Custer, Rapid City, Spearfish and Sturgis.

The soldiers are activated under FEMA Title 32, so their efforts will be federally funded.

In a statement, Governor Kristi Noem says she spoke with all three South Dakota hospital systems to ask “what they needed as cases start to rise again.”

Monument shared a need for help with testing efforts.

“Testing efforts help us to identify and isolate cases to slow the spread of the virus,” Noem said in the email.

The members began their work Tuesday morning.

Testing volume in August was 115 percent higher than it was in July, according to Emily Leech, Director of the Monument Health Laboratory Services.

The health care system says that in the last seven days, 2,856 COVID-19 PCR tests were completed and 844 were positive for a positivity rate of 29.6 percent.

Leech says assistance from the National Guard will allow Monument Health to test more patients and fully utilize testing equipment. 

The latest update from the state health department said the Rapid City hospital was at 100 percent capacity.

A month ago, the Monument Health system had fewer than 10 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. As of Monday, Aug. 30, the number had increased to 110.

Dan Daly with Monument Health says as of Tuesday, the health care system has 108 COVID-19 patients. He says that is more than the 104 patients treated when COVID-19 peaked in November 2020 in South Dakota.

A Monument spokesman tells us they are not turning anyone away. He says if someone needs a bed, they will find one.

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