Noem: Stronger orders necessary to delay hospital surge

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SIOUX FALLS (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Tuesday said the stronger executive orders she issued this week are necessary to delay a surge in hospitalizations from the coronavirus, but that a lock down on daily life is still not needed.

The governor has resisted issuing a statewide order to stay home or close non-essential businesses, despite calls from mayors and groups representing health care workers that she take more action.

In a daily briefing, the Republican governor said she would continue to intensify restrictions when it is “appropriate,” but for now urged people to follow the executive orders she issued Monday. One order tells businesses to limit group sizes, while the other directs people in the hardest-hit area of the state to stay home if they are over 65 or have chronic health problems.

Her stay-at-home order only applies to people in Minnehaha and Lincoln counties, which account for over half of the confirmed cases in the state.

Health officials reported two new deaths from the coronavirus on Tuesday, along with 32 new confirmed cases. The total number of people who have tested positive rose to 320, and six people have died.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are among those particularly susceptible to more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Noem has projected coronavirus infections will peak in the state in June, operating under the assumption that up to 70% of people could become infected while the disease runs its course. She believes hospitals will need to care for 5,000 COVID-19 patients by the peak.

The governor said hospitals are looking at alternative sites where they could care for COVID-19 patients.

Noem also proclaimed Wednesday a day of prayer, noting this week’s significance for Christian and Jewish faiths.

“Another weapon that we have, that many of us during this week of Holy Week rely on, is the power of prayer,” she said.

A school employee on the Pine Ridge Reservation has a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.

The president of Red Cloud Indian School posted on Facebook Tuesday that an employee of the Catholic school tested positive for the coronavirus.

According to the post, an employee of Our Lady of Lourdes elementary school in Porcupine and spouse traveled to California for a medical procedure on March 26. The couple returned the next day to begin a precautionary 14-day quarantine at their home on the school campus. The couple had no contact with anyone during that time, with all groceries and other supplies left outside their front door.

The worker began feeling sick and went on April 3 to the Indian Health Service hospital in Pine Ridge, where staff told the couple to travel to another facility in Martin.

The employee’s preliminary test came back as positive on Tuesday, the same time the person began to experience respiratory distress. The employee is now being treated at a hospital in Rapid City. The spouse is also staying in Rapid City and will only return to Porcupine once their risk of infection has been ruled out.

And the state said Tuesday that an employee of the Walmart pharmacy in Yankton has tested positive for the coronavirus and could have infected others.

Health officials said the person may have transmitted the coronavirus while working at the pharmacy on March 25 and 30. They advised that customers of the pharmacy monitor themselves for symptoms of the coronavirus.

Walmart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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