Why such a big drop off in SD COVID-19 testing and what needs to happen next

Coronavirus

South Dakota says it can currently test 3,000 people per day for COVID-19 and is working to expand that to 5,000 per day.

Health experts say the key to reopening communities safely is to provide widespread testing that can be easily accessed at your doctor’s office.

South Dakota’s testing numbers suddenly dropped off over the weekend, going from 678 new COVID-19 tests on Sunday to 101 on Monday.

The highest number of South Dakotans were tested early on in this pandemic.

On March 26, there were 1,159 new tests in South Dakota. That number went up and down until Smithfield was declared one of the nation’s top hot spots on April 9; bringing new tests up over the 700 mark last week.

So why did they suddenly drop to 101 on Monday and 237 Tuesday?

“We did see very aggressive testing when we had the cluster in Minnehaha County, so you may have seen an inflation in the testing numbers for that reason,” South Dakota Secretary of Health, Kim Malsam-Rysdon said.

“We typically see fewer tests being performed over the weekend,” State Epidemiologist, Dr. Joshua Clayton said.

The South Dakota State Medical Association wants to see an overall increase in testing available of both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients.

Kennecke: Do you think people can easily get the test today?
Dr. Robert Summerer, President of South Dakota State Medical Association: No, I don’t think it’s available and that is part of the problem. At this point, at least in our state, we’re somewhat limiting who should be getting the test—more vulnerable, patients who are symptomatic, health care workers. We’re all being somewhat careful about who gets a test because of availability and supply.

Under the White House testing plan unveiled this week, each state would get enough tests to screen at least 2% of residents. But a Harvard paper says that figure should be as high as 21%. The South Dakota Department of Health does not anticipate that would be a problem.

“The capacity is there to meet the need, whatever the need may be. If that’s 21% of the population that may up to 21%—at this point we have not exceeded our capacity in the state, Dr. Clayton said.

The national testing plan says states should have a “downward trajectory of positive tests” or a “downward trajectory of documented cases” over two weeks. South Dakota’s most recent dramatic dip may or may not be the start of that trend.

“I do anticipate that we are going to see numbers increasing as individuals are contacting their providers as we have a focus of increasing testing capabilities within the state, Dr. Clayton said.

The South Dakota Department of Health says it’s also looking into more testing of both employees and residents at nursing homes in South Dakota. Dr. Summerer says many nursing homes are already requiring new patients to be tested before being admitted.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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