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South Dakota gov: no school next week, more tests coming

March 17, 2020 GMT

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Gov. Kristi Noem on Tuesday ordered South Dakota schools to stay closed again next week while the state waits for healthcare providers to make more testing available.

Officials announced earlier in the day that one more person has tested positive for COVID-19 in South Dakota, bringing the state’s total to 11. Authorities confirmed on Monday that one death last week was caused by COVID-19.

The new case is in Minnehaha County, which contains Sioux Falls, the state’s largest city. Five of the people who tested positive for the coronavirus live in the county. The latest case is a woman in her 50s.

All the positive cases have come from people who traveled outside the state and there is currently no evidence of it spreading in communities, officials said.

Noem on Monday met with leaders from two of the state’s largest healthcare providers, Sanford and Avera. The companies announced they would be coordinating to make more tests available and expanding testing to commercial labs. The state health lab has tested over 500 people for COVID-19 but experienced a slow down Monday when it ran low on the supplies needed to conduct the tests.

“We hope by the end of the week to have hundreds and hundreds of tests every day available,”said the CEO of Sanford Kelby Krabbenhoft.

The governor said that one more week of school closures would give the state time to ramp up testing.

When asked if hospitals needed to brace for similar numbers of infections to the influenza epidemics that infected hundreds of thousands in 1918 and 1958, the governor said, “I believe because of the actions we’ve already taken, we won’t reach that level.”

Noem also raised the possibility of the Legislature funding a response to the outbreak and its economic effects when lawmakers convene for one day at the end of the month.

“The virus is having a ripple effect across the state,” Noem said.

Earlier in the day, Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken said bar and restaurant owners are particularly concerned with the drop off in customers. The city is not mandating any bar or restaurant shutdowns, but encouraging businesses to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people. He said the city is trying to help encourage people to order takeout.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Sioux Falls also is setting up a fund to help people financially impacted by the outbreak. So far, businesses and nonprofits have donated $700,000. TenHaken asked landlords to be lenient on renters hit by the economic slow down.

“The last thing we want to see is evictions right now,” he said.

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