PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota's number of positive COVID-19 cases rose by 70 on Tuesday, April 21, for a total of 1,755, with one additional death of a Minnehaha County man in his 60s.

The state Department of Heath's data showed that 824 people have recovered in the state. A total of 100 people have been hospitalized.

According to the obituary of Craig Allen Franken, 61, of Sioux Falls, his death on April 19 was the result of complications from COVID-19. That brings the total deaths resulting from COVID-19 to eight.

North Sioux City racing event to be held during pandemic

Park Jefferson International Speedway in North Sioux CIty has plans to hold a racing event with up to 700 spectators on Saturday, April 25, which Gov. Kristi Noem is urging the public not to attend.

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Noem said during a press conference Tuesday in Pierre that the only action she would be taking in regard to the racing event would be to urge South Dakotans not to attend.

Noem reiterated her executive order that urges residents to continue social distancing, resist unnecessary outings and to stay home, noting that projections to see a peak infection rate in the state have remained unchanged.

South Dakota is projected to see a peak in COVID-19 cases in mid-June, according to Noem.

Noem stressed that those who want to return to pre-pandemic normalcy need to be patient and follow her plans to avoid overwhelming the state’s health care facilities.

Unemployment claims 20 times more than last year

Marcia Hultman, state Labor and Regulations secretary, said the state has paid and processed about $30 million in unemployment benefits thus far. As a comparison, at this time last year the state paid about $540,000 in unemployment claims.

Hultman asked for the public’s consideration with state employees working to process and vet the unemployment claims.

“The reality is that there are many claims in queue to be processed. To the public, please remember the person on the phone is not responsible for how quickly the claims are processed,” Hultman said during the press conference.

“We have been training staff across the department who do not normally do the insurance claim process,” Hultman said. “We’ve added capacity to our call center and wait times have greatly reduced. We are now looking at processing claims. I’m not trying to be defensive, but I’m trying to be realistic.”

Hultman said 74% of the claims have been processed in a timely manner, while 26% have had issues going forward and could take up to four weeks before they are processed.

State walleye spawning operations put on halt due to COVID-19

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks will not be conducting walleye spawning operations this spring due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to a news release.

Geno Adams, state GF&P senior fisheries program manager, said the department was ready to trap and transfer fish and spawn walleye in March, but pandemic protocol has limited field operations allowing only solitary work in the field.

“Standard spring field work activities for fisheries, like walleye spawning and trap-and-transfer, require staff to work in close proximity and are not occurring this spring,” Adams stated in the release.

South Dakota’s walleye population remains in good shape this year, according to the release, in part due to the high water levels throughout the state.

Brian Blackwell, a fisheries biologist with state GF&P, stated in the news release that ice anglers caught numerous young walleyes produced in northeastern area lakes in 2019.

“We are in good shape and will be fine without stocking in 2020. This will be a good chance to see if natural reproduction will once again respond to increased water levels,” Blackwell said.

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