Harding County reports first COVID-19 cases

The graphic shows the COVID count as of Thursday in South Dakota.

Courtesy photo

PIERRE — The South Dakota Department of Health reported 82 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, and Harding County reported its first case of the virus.

Harding County became the 66th and final South Dakota county with a positive case – actually, two positive cases were announced Thursday.

Kathy Glines, Harding County emergency manager, said she and others in the county knew it was only a matter of time before they had a positive COVID-19 case.

“We got a reality check that we are not immune to it,” Glines said Friday. “We knew it was coming, we just didn’t know who and when.”

Glines said the county’s remoteness and small population probably contributed to holding off the coronavirus for as long as it did.

Harding County, which covers 2,680 square miles, is located in the far northwest corner of South Dakota bordered by North Dakota on the north and Montana on the west. It’s population is about 1,300.

The Harding County Fair is currently underway at Camp Crook and face-to-face school is scheduled to start next Wednesday.

Glines advice to county residents concerning the coronavirus is simple.

“Keep being diligent. Wash your hands and social distance,” she said.

Pennington County had the most new cases around the Black Hills area, recording five new positive tests according to the South Dakota Department of Health’s bi-weekly briefing Thursday. Another nine were reported Friday. Pennington County’s cumulative total rises to 924 with 109 active cases.

Meade County has a cumulative total of 97 with 17 active cases. That is down two from Wednesday.

Lawrence County has had 63 COVID-19 cases with 23 active and 40 recovered.

The statewide number of active cases was down four on Friday to 1,101. Hospitalizations were up as well to 65. Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by about 12, an increase of 15%.

There have been 150 deaths reported.

State health officials said Thursday that South Dakota will adhere to recommendations that only people with COVID-19 symptoms or exposure to the coronavirus be tested because an increase in testing nationwide is delaying test results.

As large gatherings such as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally  and the state fair get underway, local officials were planning to conduct mass testing to screen for outbreaks. But the Department of Health is balancing calls for mass testing with ensuring they can get the results quickly.

“That time to getting those test results is a very important part of our ability to respond,” said state epidemiologist Josh Clayton. “If we’re not hearing and learning of an individual who is a positive case until seven to 10 days after their specimen was collected, that is problematic.”

The state’s public health lab currently produces test results within one or two days, according to Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon. But the large commercial labs that receive tests from multiple states have struggled to keep up with a surge.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported Thursday that the average turnaround time for labs is three days or less, Malsam-Rysdon said.

Health experts have said widespread testing is important  to prevent large outbreaks of the coronavirus. South Dakota is trying to conduct 44,233 tests every month, which is 5% of the population, though some people are tested more than once. So far this month, the Department of Health is 38% of the way to its monthly goal.

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