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Noem reports no new cases, but irked by test supply shortage

March 20, 2020 GMT

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was frustrated in video of a call with President Donald Trump after she found out a local hospital system received COVID-19 testing supplies before the state’s lab.

The state lab halted testing this week after running out of reagent, the compounded needed for the chemical analysis in COVID-19 tests. Labs around the country are running low on testing supplies. The South Dakota lab received a shipment on Thursday morning, but only enough to run high-priority tests.

Noem said Friday the state lab ran 29 high-priority tests, but none came back positive. The lab is also sending some of its lower-priority tests to commercial labs out of state, but those take four to five days to process.

Video of Trump’s conference call with governors was posted Thursday by NBC News.

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Noem had publicly praised the White House for its help in finding supplies, but told Trump that she got “pushy with a few people” when shipments kept getting canceled. She then learned a local hospital system got supplies before the lab, even though it does not have an operating lab.

“They’ve received what I was trying to get,” Noem told the president in the call.

Trump then signaled to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar that he should respond to Noem, making a circular hand motion conveying he wanted to move forward with the call.

“I just don’t want to not be a priority area because we are a smaller state or less populated,” Noem said.

Azar then told the governor that most labs are buying testing supplies on the open market and that there’s a “trillion” dollar supply.

After testing 692 people for COVID-19, the state has 14 positive results, including one person who died. But there are 270 more tests awaiting results.

South Dakota’s lab has supplies to run about 100 tests. Officials are saving those for people like healthcare providers and nursing home workers who could easily spread the coronavirus.

In the call, Noem said she has reached out to other governors to see if they could spare any supplies after several shipments of reagent were canceled.

White House staff told Noem that private hospitals can now purchase reagents.

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 vast majority of people recover from the virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild cases recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe ones can take three to six weeks to get better.

Noem said in an update Friday that she spoke with federal officials and they “failed” in the shortage situation. She also raised concerns about how the economic downturn from the coronavirus outbreak will impact the state budget. Lawmakers are scheduled to meet in Pierre for one day at the end of the month.

Small businesses and nonprofits are now eligible for federal loans for disaster relief, the governor’s office announced. The unemployment claims call center has been flooded with calls, but an updated number of claims was not available.

The state has closed schools, but the governor has not issued an order to shutter businesses.

A spokesperson for Sanford Health, which is working to develop testing, said Sanford has not acquired reagent. Avera, another large healthcare provider in the state, did not immediately comment.

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