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Noem encourages use of app to trace COVID-19 infections

April 9, 2020 GMT
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In this March 26, 2020 photo, Lynn Landereaux, a maintenance and custodian at the St. Bernard Mission School in Fort Yates, North Dakota, hands out sack lunches from the school's kitchen to families. Landereaux said he also delivers the meals to families lacking transportation in the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Reservation. (Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP)
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In this March 26, 2020 photo, Lynn Landereaux, a maintenance and custodian at the St. Bernard Mission School in Fort Yates, North Dakota, hands out sack lunches from the school's kitchen to families. Landereaux said he also delivers the meals to families lacking transportation in the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Reservation. (Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Gov. Kristi Noem on Thursday encouraged people to use a mobile app that can retrace the steps of people who test positive for the virus.

The Care19 app was created in North Dakota by a Microsoft engineer, and was originally developed to help North Dakota State University football fans traveling to Texas. North Dakota rolled it out this week.

Noem said use of the app is voluntary and that it has privacy measures in place, including the ability to delete your data at any time. She explained it could help the Department of Health investigate the spread of infections and identify people who have come into contact with someone with the coronavirus.

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Health officials reported 54 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, bringing the state’s total to 447. Officials reported no new deaths from COVID-19, but six people have died so far.

Minnehaha County, the state’s most-populated area, saw the largest jump in confirmed infections, with 46 new cases. That county alone accounts for over 60% of all confirmed cases.

Many of the infections in Minnehaha have been linked to an outbreak at the Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls. Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said on Wednesday that over 80 employees have tested positive but declined to give an update on the number of confirmed cases on Thursday.

Smithfield is temporarily closing the plant starting on Saturday to clean and install physical barriers between workers.

Noem praised the action, saying it showed Smithfield cared about their workers.

“The Smithfield situation is a difficult one, and we’re going to continue to do all that we can to make sure the situation is rectified and people’s health is protected,” she said.

The Republican governor said she has been encouraging businesses to find ways to stay open. But the state has not been able to avoid the massive layoffs seen around the country. Almost 8,000 people made new claims for unemployment last week.

“These numbers are historical in our state in the very worst way,” Noem said, noting that she was not aware of a worse week since the state started tracking unemployment data.

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