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South Dakota nears 1,000 COVID cases; no stay-at-home order

April 14, 2020 GMT

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Gov. Kristi Noem reiterated Tuesday that she won’t be ordering South Dakota residents to stay home amid the coronavirus pandemic, as another 121 confirmed cases were reported in the state.

The vast majority of South Dakota’s 988 total cases — 768 — are in Minnehaha County, which includes the Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, the site of one of the largest known clusters of COVID-19 cases in the country. Noem said 70% of the county’s cases could be traced to the plant: 438 employees and an additional 107 people who had contact with employees have tested positive for the coronavirus.

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Despite the numbers, Noem said she would not issue a stay-at-home order for Minnehaha and nearby Lincoln Counties, as Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken requested. Noem said a stay-at-home order wouldn’t have made a difference in Sioux Falls because the plant would have remained open as part of a critical infrastructure business. The company announced Sunday that it would close until future notice, and Noem said she’s working with federal leaders and company officials to get it back up and running.

“This plant here is incredibly important, not just to Sioux Falls, not just to South Dakota, but to our nation. It provides our food for us,” Noem said.

Noem also announced Monday that South Dakota will run a comprehensive trial to see if an anti-malarial drug pushed by President Donald Trump is effective in treating and preventing COVID-19. Her announcement came the same day scientists in Brazil said they stopped part of their own study, after heart rhythm problems developed in one-quarter of people who were given a higher dose of the drug.

There are several other trials being conducted elsewhere. Noem said Tuesday that the South Dakota trial, which will include 2,000 patients, has already begun after the state received 1.2 million doses of hydroxychloroquine from the federal government.

South Dakota’s death toll remained at six on Tuesday, with no new deaths reported in the state. Reported hospitalizations from the disease increased to 45. Of all reported cases, 261 people have recovered.

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.