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South Dakota governor closes schools, declares emergency

March 13, 2020 GMT

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem ordered a state of emergency on Friday and instructed public schools to close in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Officials said another person had tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the state’s total to nine. Noem said the drop-off in positive test results and the absence of signs of community spread was “encouraging” but took the step of ordering the state of emergency as a “proactive” measure.

The move marks an intensification of Noem’s response to the virus outbreak. She ordered all public schools to close for a week to clean facilities and prepare for the potential of reopening the following week.. She also said the state’s high school athletics association would postpone the state basketball tournament scheduled for this week and next.

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All nonessential state employees will be working from home as part of the measure, the governor said.

The new case was a man in his 30s from McCook County who had traveled outside the state.

All nine people who have tested positive for the coronavirus in South Dakota have traveled outside the state, and their contact with people in South Dakota was limited, officials said. One of the men who tested positive for the virus died on Tuesday. He had underlying health problems and was in his 60s.

Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said the state is expecting a new shipment of tests for the coronavirus in the next few days. She also said that after receiving instructions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state health lab will only administer a single test to people, rather than the double test it was performing.

Commercial testing is now available, and at least one healthcare provider in the state was administering tests through that option.

The state so far has produced 73 negative tests for the coronavirus. One of those was a state lawmaker who took the precaution of avoiding contact with people and getting tested.

Rep. Spencer Gosch stayed away from the Capitol after experiencing a cough and chest congestion. Lawmakers wrapped up one of their final days of the legislative session on Thursday, and many returned to their homes on Friday.

The South Dakota Supreme Court issued an order declaring a judicial emergency because of the new coronavirus. The order gives the presiding judges of the state’s seven judicial circuits authority to modify or suspend court rules as warranted for dealing with the pandemic. That may be closing the courtrooms, relocating proceedings or otherwise modifying regular operations.

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.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.