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COVID-19 kills 4 more South Dakotans, as nursing home outbreak grows

More than one third of South Dakota COVID-19 fatalities have been reported in the past two days, all in Minnehaha County. A senior care facility there said Friday seven of its residents had died due to the coronavirus.

Good Samaritan Society Sioux Falls Village.jpg
The Good Samaritan Society Sioux Falls Village senior care facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on May 1. (Jeremy Fugleberg/Forum News Service)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The coronavirus has killed eight South Dakotans in the last two days, growing the pandemic's death toll in the state to 21, state officials reported Friday, May 1.

The state reported four deaths Thursday and four more Friday. All eight fatalities from the two days are in Minnehaha County, home to Sioux Falls. Of the state's death count from COVID-19, 16 are in that county alone.

A Sioux Falls senior-care facility has been particularly hard hit. The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society's Sioux Falls Village reported Friday four new fatalities, bringing the death toll among the facility's residents to seven.

"This is truly a sad day for our entire Good Samaritan Society family," the organization said in a news release. "Every resident who comes through our doors becomes family, and losing these cherished members of our family weighs heavily on our hearts."

Fifty four of the facility's residents and 36 employees have tested positive for COVID-19, although 11 employees have recovered and returned to work. Good Samaritan Society is part of Sioux Falls-based Sanford Health. It's not clear if the state's list of reported fatalities include all of those at the Good Samaritan Society facility, since it can take up to a week for a death certificate to be filed.


The fatalities were among the 2,525 South Dakotans who have tested positive for the coronavirus, adding 76 from the previous day. The bulk of the state's cases, 2,242, are in Minnehaha and Lincoln counties, home to Sioux Falls.

State officials wouldn't name the facility directly, but did discuss the situation at a long-term care facility in Sioux Falls. Administrators and staff at the facility have been working closely with state public health officials and following state and federal recommendations, said Kim Malsam Rysdon, secretary of the state Department of Health.

"That is an ongoing situation and aggressive testing has happened there to ensure good management moving forward," she said.

Beef plant outbreak grows, Smithfield outbreak stalls

Another outbreak state public health officials are tracking is at DemKota Ranch Beef facility in Aberdeen. There are now 22 cases linked to that plant, they said Friday.

The state's largest known outbreak, at the massive Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, appears to have halted. Officials link 1,098 coronavirus cases to the plant alone. But that number has been unchanged this week, indicating officials have completed testing of workers and close contacts who have shown symptoms of the disease. The plant, which employs 3,700, has been closed since April 15.

State officials reported 818 active coronavirus cases on Friday, down 41 from the prior day, with 69 South Dakotans in the hospital, among the 179 ever hospitalized.

State, clinical and private labs have processed tests for a total of 17,363 South Dakotans, up 335 tests from Thursday.

On Wednesday, the state loosened coronavirus testing guidelines for medical providers. But State Epidemiologist Dr. Josh Clayton reminded media on a Friday call the focus remains on testing only those showing symptoms of the virus. Some testing of those not showing symptoms could take place, but under limited circumstances, he said.


"That would be something that would be at the direction of either those of us at the public Health Department or through individual (health) systems, such as being done for Good Samaritan Center and other long-term care facilities," he said.

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Jeremy Fugleberg is editor of The Vault, Forum Communications Co.'s home for Midwest history, mysteries, crime and culture. He is also a member of the company's Editorial Advisory Board.
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