SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- South Dakota public schools should remain closed through next week, Gov. Kristi Noem said Tuesday, March 17, as she confirmed testing had uncovered an 11th case of coronavirus in the state.
"That is to allow us time to make sure we have adequate laboratory testing and supplies for whatever may come our direction," said Noem, after a meeting with health system leaders in Sioux Falls.
The move extends the closures of the state's K-12 schools into a second week. It is the most dramatic step South Dakota has yet taken to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic into the state.
A shortage of some supplies was creating a bottleneck for testing at the state public health lab, slowing test processing for those not considered medium- or high-risk cases, Noem told media Monday.
Administrators for Sioux Falls-based health systems Sanford Health and Avera Health, who flanked the governor at her press conference at the Sanford headquarters, said they're working together to set up testing capacity that will bolster the testings performed by the state.
"We're going to do that together," said Sanford Health President and CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft. "We hope by the end of the week to have hundreds and hundreds of tests every day available to people."
As of Tuesday at 5 p.m., the state has tested 597 people, with 35 tests pending and 551 negative, according to the state Department of Health's coronavirus information website.
'It's going to have a life of its own'
The new coronavirus case, a woman in her 50s, is the fifth case from Minnehaha County. The county, home to Sioux Falls, the state's largest city, is increasingly the epicenter of virus cases in the state.
The woman is home and resting comfortably, Noem said. She had a history of travel outside the state, confirmed Kim Malsam-Rysdon, secretary of the state Department of Health.
South Dakota has confirmed 11 cases of coronavirus in the state, including one death last week of a man in his 60s from Pennington County. All those diagnosed with the disease had a history of out-of-state travel, state officials say.
There's no indication yet of the virus passing through communities in the state undetected, Noem said, which she credited to decisions made by both state officials and health system leaders.
"That's a very good news," she said. "It's a different story than what other states around us are dealing with, and I think it's largely because of the proactive nature that we've worked with health care providers, with schools, with leaders and businesses, and communities throughout the state."
Sanford and Avera leaders echoed Noem's positive message on working together but sounded a somewhat more cautious tone on the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
"It's going to have a life of its own, and it's going to find a way into our communities and into our society, and it's going to take the toll it takes," said Sanford's Krabbenhoft, while also noting the vast majority of people will only face minor symptoms.
- Drive-up testing for coronavirus is coming online: Avera Health opened such an option in Mitchell last week, Monument Health in Rapid City said it would have drive-through coronavirus sample collection by Monday, according to the Rapid City Journal; and an internal memo from Sanford Health sent Tuesday said a curbside screening option would be ready soon;
In Sioux Falls, Mayor Paul TenHaken announced the creation of One Sioux Falls Fund, a community relief effort meant to help those who may be facing eviction and other housing issues due to coronavirus-caused financial shortfalls;
- Noem, in the Tuesday press conference, said she had not been tested for the coronavirus: "I feel great," she said.
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