SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota's coronavirus hotspots grew as the state's confirmed cases rose 5, to a total of 46 on Thursday, March 26.
The state's two biggest clusters of cases are in the Huron and Sioux Falls areas, where the virus is known to be moving through the community undetected.
Beadle County, home to Huron, added one case for a total of 13. The counties that contain Sioux Falls added three additional cases for a total of 16, two in Minnehaha County and one in Lincoln County, state officials said in a briefing just after noon.
Of the state's total cases, 16 individuals have recovered, said Gov. Kristi Noem. Two or three individuals are in the hospital, said Kim Malsam-Rysdon, secretary of the state Department of Health.
Asked about President Donald Trump's goal of getting the nation "opened up and just raring to go by Easter," Noem threw in doubt the likelihood that would happen in South Dakota.
"I do not think South Dakota will be back to normal for many months, many months," she said. "This is a long-term situation we have in front of us today.
"So those who might think that by Easter things will be back to normal, I don't want to discourage them, but I want to be very clear and honest with them, that we will be operating differently for many weeks to come yet in South Dakota, because we can't stop this virus."
She encouraged retired doctors and nurses, as well as those who want to help, sign up online at volunteers.sd.gov. She also encouraged South Dakotans to contact the Red Cross and donate much-needed blood.
South Dakota's supply of hospital beds and ventilators — medical machines used to help patients breathe — is in good shape, state officials say. Only one-sixth of ventilators in the state are in use, said Malsam-Rysdon. The state is working with hospital providers to set up a surge capacity for an expected jump in the number of infected individuals who need to be hospitalized, she said.
"We do feel good about our current capacity across the state," she said.
State officials did however warn health care providers on a Wednesday webinar to be careful stewards of their supply of personal protective equipment such as gloves, aprons and masks and other crucial equipment, such as specimen collection swabs.
"I think it's important we come to terms with the fact that we're seeing significant supply chain disruption across the United States," said Tim Southern, director of the state public health lab.
The state is still distributing personal protective equipment from its caches to hospitals and clinics. The state Department of Health got a relative "small" allocation of protective equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile last week, with another expected soon.
State officials asked for more protective equipment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies last week, but has yet to receive anything, he said.
Newly available testing at Sanford Health and Avera Health in Sioux Falls and tests sent to outside, private labs appear to have been crucial at discovering new cases in the state.
Of the new cases reported Thursday, four of the five were detected by the private labs, said Malsam-Rysdon. The two health systems can process about 600 tests a day, and the state lab can run up to about 180 a day.
Both systems' labs are testing the states low- and medium-priority tests. The state lab is only processing high-priority tests, or those from individuals who have been hospitalized, those in long-term care centers, the incarcerated and healthcare workers and first responders, as well as soldiers.
The state is now updating its coronavirus information page with the number of tests coming back with negative results from both the state health lab and private lab testing. The combined total of negative and positive cases in the state stands at 2,019.
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