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Rushmore fireworks have yet to create COVID-19 trend in SD, officials say

President Donald Trump speaks during the Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration on Friday, July 3 in Keystone. (Matt Gade / Republic)
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PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota health officials said Monday, July 13, that no trends of COVID-19 cases have been identified following Independence Day celebrations around the state, most notably the Mount Rushmore fireworks celebration with President Donald Trump in attendance earlier this month.

A crowd of 7,500 people attended the July 3 event in Keystone, in which Gov. Kristi Noem noted ahead of time would not involve social distancing at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

In a conference call with reporters on Monday, South Dakota Epidemiologist Joshua Clayton said, to this point, no trends of COVID-19 cases have been identified following the fireworks celebration or other events around the state. He noted the state’s policy of not commenting on individual exposures of COVID-19 cases unless a notice needs to be issued to members of the public regarding possible exposure to the virus.

The remarks came as South Dakota reported 25 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. The state reported results from 770 tests, with a rate of 3.25% coming back positive. South Dakota’s cumulative rate of positive tests is 8.23%, a rate that has dropped for five consecutive days. It was the lowest single-day total for new cases in South Dakota in seven weeks, since 23 new cases were tallied on May 25.

The state’s count of active COVID-19 cases ticked up slightly from Sunday to Monday, up by four cases to 872 cases. The total number of cases in South Dakota to 7,524. South Dakota did not report any new deaths as a result of the virus for the third consecutive day, leaving the total at 109.


Clayton said Monday was the first day the state was handling its data differently, moving the cutoff time for data from 5 p.m. on the day prior to 1 p.m. on the day before the data was released. He said that change would allow Department of Health officials to analyze data during normal business hours.

State Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon was also asked about the DOH’s position regarding face masks, in light of Noem’s comments on July 9 rejecting the idea of a national mask mandate because “the science on masks is very mixed.”

Malsam-Rysdon said her department has been “very clear” in relaying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance but said the science is “not unequivocal” about mask wearing. The CDC recommends people wear cloth face coverings in public settings when around people outside their own household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Whether to wear a mask in specific situations, she said, “depend(s) on how close you get to people and how long you’re in a certain place.”

Monday’s figures also ended a four-day streak of South Dakota testing at least 1,000 people for the virus through state, hospital, federal and out-of-state private labs.

Through Monday, 18 of the state’s 66 counties are experiencing “substantial community spread” of the disease, which is defined as five or more community-acquired cases of COVID-19 in a county. Counties can be downgraded regarded to community spread from substantial to moderate or minimal if they have no active cases in a community and can have the community spread designation eliminated if 28 days elapsed since the last active case.

Two counties — Harding and Potter — have yet to have a confirmed COVID-19 case in the state, more than 120 days since the first positive COVID-19 case was announced in the state. Harding County is in the state’s northwest corner, while Potter County is in the north-central region of the state.

Clayton said Monday that thinking individuals in those counties haven’t had potential exposures or have not had illnesses “might be a false way of thinking about it.”


“I do anticipate that throughout the history of SARS-CoV-2 in South Dakota, we will see cases in every county,” Clayton said. “Whether they have been cases there, it’s an unknown and unknowable result.”

Malsam-Rysdon noted that both Harding and Potter counties have had at least 40 negative tests.

Twenty-one South Dakotans were deemed recovered in Monday’s update. Current hospitalizations were recorded at 63, with COVID-19 patients using 3% of the state's hospital beds, 4% of its ICU beds and 6% of its ventilators.

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Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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