SIOUX FALLS (AP) — South Dakota reported a record number of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations for the second consecutive day Thursday as the state continued to see some of the nation’s fastest spread of the virus.
The Department of Health reported 463 new cases and 194 people hospitalized with the COVID-19 virus. Health officials also reported eight deaths, one of the largest single-day death tallies during the pandemic.
The new records come two days after Republican Gov. Kristi Noem on Twitter described the virus’ spread as having “peaked” in the state.
But Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon on Thursday warned that the growth in cases would continue if people don’t take steps to mitigate spreading infections.
“We need everyone working really hard to see any change in the numbers,” she said.
The state has also seen some of the nation’s highest positivity rates for the virus, which is a sign that many more people have infections than tests are catching. The seven-day positivity average was over 22%, according to the COVID Tracking Project, and Thursday’s rate was even higher — over 30%.
Malsam-Rysdon said the Department of Health has received reports of people avoiding getting tested or not isolating after being exposed to people with the coronavirus. But she said there are no plans to issue orders to mitigate the spread of infections and the state will stick to a strategy that relies on people making personal decisions to take precautions.
Malsam-Rysdon encouraged people to their wash hands, to not touch their face, to maintain social distancing, and to wear a mask when they are not able to maintain six feet of separation.
Noem has said she is focused mainly on the number of hospitalizations from the virus. Even as the number of people hospitalized hit a new high, 44% of hospital beds remained open in the state, with 8% occupied by COVID-19 patients.
Malsam-Rysdon said there are currently 1,043 hospital beds available statewide.
Noem has carved out a reputation among conservatives nationwide for her hands-off approach to the pandemic. She has also aggressively marketed South Dakota as a tourist destination.
But the economic impact of the pandemic has continued to be felt in the state. The Department of Labor and Regulation reported that 504 people completed new unemployment claims between Sept. 13 and 19. That is an increase of 128 claims from the prior week’s total.
Over the last two weeks, the state has reported the nation’s second-highest number of new cases per capita. The rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by about 49% in that time.
But the surge in cases has not put a stop to Noem’s tourism pitch. In a video posted on Twitter this week, she shoots at what appears to be a pheasant and says, “Less COVID, more hunting. That’s the plan for the future.”
In Meade County, 13 new cases were reported for a total of 500.
In Lawrence County, 11 new cases were reported for a total of 373.
In Meade County, four new cases were reported including one death for a total of 86 COVID-19 positive cases .
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