SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota's three latest confirmed cases of coronavirus were connected, meaning there's still no evidence the virus is lurking undetected in the state, a spokeswoman for Gov. Kristi Noem said late Friday, March 20.
But the state's public health lab, now testing high priority patients, processed just over 200 tests from Monday to noon on Saturday, according to data posted online by the state Department of Health, after a two-day halt due to a lack of lab supplies.
There are 268 tests pending at the state lab, which has fully processed 705 tests.
There have also been hundreds of tests of cases deemed low priority sent to private labs and found to be negative for the coronavirus, numbers not counted in the state's published testing totals, said Noem, in a Friday Facebook post. The state's health systems are also setting up their own in-house testing capability to bolster the state's capacity.
The three new cases were in rural Beadle County, which has joined Minnehaha County, the state's most populous, as home to the most known cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.
South Dakota officials have confirmed one fatality and 14 total cases of the coronavirus in seven of the state's 66 counties, all travel-related or connected.
Noem has repeatedly credited moves made by state and local leaders for the low number of cases and lack of community spread, the term for when officials aren't sure how someone has caught the coronavirus. She said this week modeling had indicated South Dakota should find a case of community spread of the virus by March 13.
"Thanks to the proactive steps we developed with healthcare providers, schools, leaders and businesses and communities across the state, we have delayed community spread beyond initial projections," she wrote in her weekly column posted Saturday.
Good news stories about how South Dakotans are helping each other amid the pandemic "doesn’t get nearly enough attention in the press," she said.
Noem has so far resisted calls to shut down businesses in the state to fight the spread of the coronavirus, pointing to the state's low number of confirmed cases and lack of community spread.
But calls are growing for the state to do more to restrict the spread of the virus in the state, and local officials may be weighing unilateral action.
On Friday, leaders of medical organizations in Rapid City wrote a strongly worded open letter in the Rapid City Journal to state and local officials calling for more to be done.
"Waiting to act will kill more people while taking aggressive action now will help to limit the severity of this pandemic and allow the system to serve those most in need," they wrote.
The same day, Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender said he was weighing "emergency regulatory action" to close local businesses, according to the Rapid City Journal.
Noem spoke to leaders of the state's largest cities and listened to their concerns on Friday, she said in her Facebook video post later that day.
"We are not watching national news, " she told viewers, reporting she told city leaders she's making decisions based on data and information from federal officials while keeping an eye on the situation in state and local communities.
"If we had followed what the growth pattern and the spread of this virus was happening around the world, in this country and in other communities, we should have had community spread in South Dakota almost a week ago," she said. "We are not at that level yet. So that means everything we're doing in South Dakota today is working."
As a public service, we’ve opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status.