South Dakota National Guard to help Monument Health with COVID-19 testing

A member of the South Dakota National Guard collects a sample to be processed for COVID-19 testing. Pioneer photo by Alex Portal

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RAPID CITY — With COVID-19 spreading quickly across western South Dakota, Monument Health has asked the South Dakota National Guard to assist with COVID-19 test collection.

Nine Guard members are primarily assisting with sample collection at Monument Health’s drive-through locations in Rapid City, Spearfish, Belle Fourche, Sturgis and Custer. The soldiers are activated under FEMA Title 32, meaning that their efforts will be federally funded; they began their work Tuesday morning.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the State of South Dakota has worked with our hospital systems to manage hospital capacity so that we can help those who need elevated levels of care. Testing efforts help us to identify and isolate cases to slow the spread of the virus,” said Gov. Kristi Noem said in a prepared statement. “This past week, I had conversations with all three South Dakota hospital systems and asked them what they needed as cases start to rise again. Monument asked for the National Guard to assist them in their testing efforts, and we are happy to help.”

Emily Leech, director of the Monument Health Laboratory Services, said that testing volume in August was 115% higher than it was in July. Within the last seven days, 2,856 COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests were completed, and 844 were positive for a positivity rate of 29.6%.

On Monday, the South Dakota Department of Health (DOH) reported 463 new cases of COVID-19 throughout the state. Twenty eight new cases in Lawrence County, 34 new cases in Meade County, and 13 new cases in Butte County. Also Monday, the DOH reported five new death statewide – one in Meade County and two in Butte County.

On Tuesday the DOH reported it’s numbers, which included Saturday and Sunday reports, at 1,020 new cases statewide; 68 in Lawrence County, 97 in Meade County, and 50 in Butte County. Two new deaths were reported in the state, none in Lawrence, Meade, or Butte counties.

Monument Health has adequate analyzers and other lab equipment, Leech said, and assistance from the National Guard will allow Monument Health to test more patients and fully utilize testing equipment.

It’s one of several steps Monument Health is taking to meet rising demand for medical services. The health care system has been extremely busy in August. A month ago, the system had fewer than 10 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. By Monday, the number had increased to 110.

To schedule an appointment to be tested for COVID-19, call the Monument Health Nurse Triage Line at (605) 755-1350.

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