SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Friday, March 13, confirmed the state has uncovered another case of coronavirus, raising the state's total to nine, and instituted sweeping measures meant to limit the spread of the outbreak in the state.
Noem said she had declared a state of emergency, is asking public K-12 schools to close statewide next week and said state high school basketball tournaments and other school activities will be postponed.
Noem said she will issue an executive order directing all nonessential staff to work remotely, is asking nursing homes to restrict visitors, and said talks have begun about contingency plans for the state's upcoming primary election, set for June 2.
"I just want to remind everyone across the state of South Dakota that common sense is we're still encouraging everyone to use when it comes to large events that they may attend," she said. "If you are elderly, if you have pre-existing conditions, we're encouraging you to stay home. We're also asking you to wash your hands. That's still one of the most effective things you can do to control the spread of COVID-19."
COVID-19 is the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.
Noem set no timeline for public school closures. The schools will close for the next week, "then we will continue to re-evaluate," she said. She has also encouraged private schools to close, she said.
The newly confirmed case
The newly uncovered case is a man in his 30s in McCook County with a history of travel, said Kim Malsam-Rysdon, secretary of the state Department of Health.
That means there the state's confirmed cases now include residents of seven of the state's 66 counties. But there's no indication yet the virus is being passed between people in the state, Malsam-Rysdon said.
The state's public health lab processed 47 tests whose results were announced Friday, with 46 negative results and the lone positive. The Friday test results represent about half of the 93 tests sent to the state lab so far.
The lone discovered case represents something of a dodged bullet for the state. Yesterday, Noem said pending tests included samples from seven individuals with symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. The individuals had all come into contact with the state's previously known confirmed cases, she said Thursday.
Also tested negative: State Rep. Spencer Gosch, a Republican from Glenham. Gosch said in a Facebook post he had gotten tested Thursday as a precaution after several days of headaches.
Noem characterized the newly disclosed results as relatively good news and a positive sign for the state's coronavirus situation.
I think what's good is we're looking at how the curve is coming at us, as far as new infections, and we see trends going our direction," she said. "So the things we're implementing today and for the next week are proactive."
Testing to get a boost
As of Friday at noon, South Dakota has tested 93 potential cases of coronavirus, with nine positive, 73 negative and 11 pending, according to the state Department of Health's coronavirus information page.
Noem said new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued Thursday night says states can test using a single specimen from a patient. That effectively does double our testing capabilities."
State officials this week said they had the capacity to test 800 South Dakotans for COVID-19. State officials are expecting a shipment of additional tests within the next few days.
Malsam-Rysdon said newly available private lab testing will also boost the state's capacity to test for the coronavirus, and said a health system has already begun using private testing for the coronavirus.
The state's total of confirmed cases include a fatality, a man in his 60s from Pennington County. He died Tuesday morning, but health officials said he had underlying health issues and it wasn't yet clear if COVID-19 was a contributing factor to his death.
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