SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota is not facing a shortage of test kits for coronavirus and they're available for all state residents, top state and health officials said Friday, March 13, although the decision to test is going up to doctors following national testing guidelines.
Gov. Kristi Noem met with the leaders of Sanford Health and Avera Health at Sanford's headquarters in Sioux Falls on Friday afternoon to discuss the situation in the state, and briefed the media after the meeting.
The state has received hundreds of new testing kits for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, new federal testing guidelines are freeing up more tests and both health systems are partnering with private contractors for additional testing capacity, she said.
"We're hopeful both systems will have their expanded testing capabilities within a matter of days, next week," Noem said.
The announcement comes the same day Noem declared a state of emergence, asked K-12 schools to close next week and announced the state had discovered its ninth confirmed travel-related case of COVID-19.
Kelby Krabbenhoft, CEO of Sanford Health, said the two health systems are using private contractors to build up the capacity to test for the coronavirus. He said Avera should have tests available by Monday, March 16, with Sanford ready later next week.
"Our goal is to have, speaking for ourselves, an eight-hour turnaround so people can known the results of those tests within eight hours," he said.
While testing will be available for anyone, the test will not be on demand, Noem cautioned. Each patients' doctor will make the call, informed by the latest guidelines provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The approach is similar to that taken for other lab tests, said Dr. Allison Suttle, chief medical officer at Sanford Health. Doctors will consider symptoms, exposure to those with coronavirus and travel history, she said.
"We don't just want to test anybody," Suttle said. "We want to be good stewards and we want to use the test that's going to help us decide what we're going to do with that person."
"Patients are not charged any costs for the tests. That will be the case regardless of who is doing the testing," said Department of Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon.
However, a Sanford representative clarified after the briefing that the test will cost $130, but that cost will be covered by insurance providers, including Medicare and Medicaid. It wasn't immediately clear if the test cost was the same for both Avera and Sanford, or if those without insurance would have to pay out-of-pocket for a test.
Noem said under new CDC guidelines issues Thursday night, labs can now use single specimens from possible cases to test for coronavirus, freeing up tests that would previously be used for confirmation from multiple specimens. Noem also said the state lab received 800 more test kits, with more to come.
"We have more that are coming imminently, they could be here today," she said. "We have plenty of testing supplies. so that's not the issue in our state. I can't speak to other communities."
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