HURON — Beadle County's COVID-19 task force has established a call center to assist those in the county looking for more information about the virus or wondering if they should be tested.
The call center, which is staffed by medical professionals, went live Friday afternoon after a community briefing by a panel that included Huron Mayor Paul Aylward, Julie Miller of the South Dakota Department of Health, Beadle County Commissioner Denis Drake and Drs. Joe and Josh Carr.
As of Friday, Beadle County's 16 confirmed cases of COVID-19 made up more than a quarter of the state's 58 total cases. The county was the first in the state to have community spread, and Huron and Beadle County on Sunday became the first localities in the state to pass an ordinance implementing closures and restrictions on businesses not deemed essential.
"The call center is going to be our resource to funnel information to our citizens and also get information into the task force and the healthcare system, to work together to get through this and to help start screening patients or citizens and start educating them," Joe Carr said.
To avoid spreading the virus to health care facilities throughout the county, Beadle County is now using only one testing facility, which is accessible by appointment only. Those who think they may need to be tested must be pre-screened either by their primary care provider or by contacting the call center at 605-353-6214.
Currently, people who are hospitalized, those in long-term care facilities or assisted living centers, health care workers, first responders and members of the military are being given priority for testing.
"We cannot emphasize enough that if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to contact your primary care provider or call the Beadle County COVID-19 call center," Aylward said.
Aylward said people interested in volunteering, either at the call center or in other parts of the community affected by COVID-19, can do so by contacting the call center, signing up through the state's volunteer website or calling Huron's chamber of commerce at 352-0000.
"The reality is, 80 percent of us may have the virus and be asymptomatic," Joe Carr said. "How contagious are those people? We really don't know yet ... Healthy people are going to need to help the unhealthy. That's just a reality of the situation."
The call center has partnered with the hospital's language line to allow communication with people speaking a language other than English. It's separated into four pods, which are 20 feet apart, and disinfecting materials.
Throughout Friday's briefing, members of the task force repeatedly emphasized that people should be following CDC distancing guidelines and should stay home if they're sick, even if their illness hasn't been confirmed to be COVID-19. Joe Carr said because it's unknown whether a person develops an immunity to the coronavirus after they get it, people who become sick again after getting the coronavirus, recovering and going several days without a fever must self-quarantine again.
"Those are the true heroes: the people that are sick and are staying home. Because that's helping thousands of other people," Carr said. "So if you get sick again, you've got to go back home again and isolate."