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Noem says more testing supplies needed to identify hot spots

April 22, 2020 GMT

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said Wednesday that she’s requesting more coronavirus testing supplies from the federal government, as the state tries to navigate the partial opening of businesses.

Democratic and Republican governors have called on President Donald Trump to help them scale up testing as he pushes for a reopening of the economy. Noem, a Republican, was light in her criticism of the administration but made it clear that South Dakota needs greater testing capability.

“We’re in a much better spot with testing supplies than we were two to three weeks ago,” she said. “But do we have enough? Not yet.”

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Noem said her decision to resist ordering business closures already put the state at phase one of Trump’s plan to reopen state economies. She has assembled a committee of health care professionals to evaluate the plan and make recommendations specific to the state.

Health officials on Wednesday reported a new South Dakota death from COVID-19 and 104 more confirmed cases. The latest death was a man from Minnehaha County who was more than 80 years old, according to data from the Department of Health. It was the state’s ninth COVID-19 death.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The state has now tallied 1,858 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The number of infections is thought to be higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

More than half of the state’s confirmed cases have been linked to an outbreak at a Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls where 783 employees and 206 of their close contacts have tested positive.

The governor said she was working to procure personal protective equipment for the facility and would like to see it reopen as soon as possible. But the availability of testing for COVID-19 is key to addressing hot spots like Smithfield, she said.

Noem’s leniency in allowing businesses to stay open is being tested by a pair of motor racing events planned for this weekend. The races expect to attract hundreds of spectators on Saturday and Sunday nights.

Although race organizers are planning to space people out and implement other measures to prevent coronavirus infections, Noem said she thinks the races are a bad idea. Still, she said she would not be taking legal action to stop them from happening.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak