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State reaches 42,000 COVID-19 cases, 11,933 active cases, 412 hospitalizations, 384 deaths
  • Updated

South Dakota reached a record 42,000 COVID-19 cases Wednesday, reported a record high of 1,270 new cases and soared to a record high of 11,933 active cases.

The South Dakota Department of Health reported the 1,270 new positive results from 6,243 new tests, marking a positive rate of 20%.

South Dakota beat its own record for a single-day high of reporting new positive tests from Oct. 23 when 1,185 tests were reported and Oct. 25 when 1,063 new tests were reported.

The DOH reported 513 new recoveries Wednesday, showing new cases outpace recoveries by more than double. 29,683 South Dakotans have recovered from COVID-19.

Another nine state residents died of COVID-19 Wednesday. They were six men and three women in their 50s, 60s, 70s and six were 80 or older from Brookings, Campbell, Lake, Minnehaha and Oglala Lakota counties. Two deaths were reported in both Codington and Walworth counties. The COVID-19 death toll rose to 384 in the state.

A record 412 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 Wednesday, with 62 newly hospitalized and contributing to the number of 2,545 South Dakotans hospitalized at some point in the pandemic.

In the Black Hills, the DOH reports only 28% of staffed hospital beds and 10% of staffed ICU beds are available. Hospitals report they are treating 105 COVID-19 patients at the following hospitals:

  • Five at Cheyenne River Health Center

  • Three at Hans P. Peterson Memorial Hospital in Philip

  • Two at Monument Health Custer Hospital

  • One at Monument Health Lead-Deadwood Hospital

  • 73 at Monument Health Rapid City Hospital, including 12 in ICU beds and seven on ventilators

  • Five at Monument Health Spearfish Hospital, including two in ICU beds

  • Three at Monument Health Sturgis Hospital

  • 13 at Pine Ridge IHS

Since Oct. 1, the state has nearly doubled its total case count from 23,136 to 42,000, nearly tripled its active cases from 3,832 to 11,933, and almost doubled its hospital capacity from 214 to 412 in just 28 days.

October has also been the deadliest month for COVID-19 among South Dakotans. The death toll has increased from 223 to 384 and more have died this month (161) than in September (56), August (37), July (39), June (29), May (45), April (16) or March (1). More than half the state’s deaths have been reported in the last two months.

Cluster updates

State epidemiologist Joshua Clayton reported out new case numbers on the major outbreaks within the state Department of Corrections on Wednesday. Clayton said 710 cases have been reported among inmates and staff at the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls and 40 have recovered.

Clayton also said 710 cases have been reported among inmates and staff at the Mike Durfee State Prison in Springfield and 150 have recovered, but the DOC website shows there are 721 cases and 159 recoveries.

Rapid City Area Schools reported 49 new cases among students and staff from last Wednesday to Tuesday. The district has yet to update its website with new case totals from Tuesday, but the data shows 25 staff and 57 students have an active case, while 86 staff and 648 students are in quarantine.

Reinfections

Since last week’s DOH update when health officials said they weren’t aware of any South Dakotans who had reported a reinfection from COVID-19, Clayton provided new information Wednesday on the prevalence of reinfections in South Dakota.

As many as 28 South Dakotans are considered to have a possible reinfection, Clayton said, noting these are cases where the individual tested positive for COVID-19 again after their original test or diagnosis.

Their cases were investigated by the DOH and in consultation with their medical provider, they were classified as “possible” reinfections. Clayton noted the DOH will officially classify the cases as reinfections when the CDC issues further formal guidance on what they determine as a confirmed reinfection.

“When we’re looking at some of the literature out there, those confirmed reinfections have typically focused on genetic sequencing to determine between the initial and subsequent infection,” Clayton said.

The DOH’s public health laboratory in Pierre has a partnership with the University of Minnesota in order to do genetic sequencing when needed to identify differences in virus strains for COVID-19.

When asked what this information means for antibodies and any potential COVID-19 immunity or lack thereof, Clayton said he hasn’t seen any information in literature yet about what this could mean for protective antibody levels.

“Individuals who have previous infections who are followed for a series of time and then have reinfection, that’s going to be some of the most effective data to identify what’s happening in terms of how long a person may still be susceptible, and when they begin being susceptible again after their initial infection,” Clayton said of the lack of substantive research on the topic.

National Guard

State health secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon said she does not anticipate that any health care providers in the state would need to utilize the 100-bed units that the National Guard could set up in Sioux Falls and Rapid City in anticipation of increased bed capacity.

Malsam-Rysdon said this as the DOH reported the record 412 current hospitalizations across the state and that less than one-third of the state’s staffed hospital and ICU beds are available.

“They’re intended to be alternative care for individuals to allow other facilities to take care of folks with the most COVID-19 needs,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “We talk regularly with our hospital partners and they are making necessary arrangements to continue to be able to care for people within their walls. We do not anticipate the need to use those alternative care sites at this time.”

Malsam-Rysdon noted the 100-bed units aren’t set up yet, but that the National Guard could set them up in one to two days.

Derrick Haskins, communications director for the DOH, said approximately 150 of the department’s 366 contact tracers are from the National Guard.

Flu season

As flu season fast approaches, Malsam-Rysdon said she would encourage South Dakotans to get their flu shot. She said that the more people who get flu vaccines will also help the situation against COVID-19.

“The influenza vaccine is a very important component of prevention going into this fall to prevent additional illness in individuals, protect yourself, your family, your friends and co-workers, but also to help safeguard some of those needed medical supplies,” Clayton said.

Those who have or had COVID-19 should wait until they’ve completed their isolation period in order to allow for individuals to have “fully cleared that virus before they’re given an additional vaccine for influenza and to make sure that’s fully allowed to produce the level of immunity we’re looking for to protect against influenza,” Clayton said.

Clayton said the decision to vaccinate for influenza after a COVID-19 diagnosis should be made with one’s medical provider.


Local
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City council to discuss land swap proposal at Monday's meeting
  • Updated

Almost every seat was filled Wednesday in the City Council Chamber when the Legal and Finance committee voted 4-1 to send a land swap resolution to the city council without recommendation.

The resolution is a “creative solution” brought by a group of volunteers representing the Native American community to transfer land with an estimated $20 million value to the Department of the Interior.

Council member Greg Strommen, standing in for council member Lance Lehmann, opposed the measure.

Six members of the public commented in support of the five-page resolution.

After public comment, Heather Dawn Thompson took to the podium to answer questions from the committee. She said the group she represents is made up of more than 100 volunteers and that the project is for the entire Native American community.

“We represent an effort to try and gain consensus as best as possible within the Native American community to advise that process,” she said.

A July 2017 letter from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the Rapid City mayor, superintendent of Rapid City Area Schools, and the leaders of the Oglala, Rosebud and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes states that three parcels deeded to Rapid City and the school district could be returned to the agency since “they are no longer being utilized for the deeded purpose.”

The land is where Monument Health — Behavioral Health Center, Clarkson Health Care-Westhills Village and Canyon Lake Activity Center are located.

The resolution states that Native American community would like to create a Native American Community Center, a Native Assisted Living Facility and a Tribal Health Treatment Facility. It also states each property has indicated they “do not wish that the land upon which they are located revert to the federal government, since that transaction would cause them great expense and inconvenience.”

The resolution poses a “creative solution” that would allow a 1,200-acre land exchange between the city and the Native American community that could be any other property in or near Rapid City.

City Attorney Joel Landeen said the Department of the Interior has to sign an agreement with the city, but believes the department is aware of the discussions.

Landeen said the resolution isn’t an agreement, it’s the framework to reach one. 

“The reality is, this is the first step to continue moving forward,” he said.

Landeen said the mayor doesn’t view this as a strictly legal issue.

“I think it’s pretty obvious at this point that it’s more than just a legal dispute,” he said. “One of the questions when you decide how to proceed I think you need to answer for yourselves is...is it really the worst thing in the world to invest $20 million into our Native community if it benefits them and benefits the community as a whole, and it also resolves this issue?”

Council member Jason Salamun said the Department of the Interior perspective is missing from the conversation, and Strommen agreed. Strommen made a substitute motion during the meeting to postpone the vote and discussion to the council’s first working session on Nov. 10. It failed 4-1.

Armstrong made the motion to move the resolution to the council’s Monday meeting without recommendation to hear more discussion.

The Rapid City Council will meet at 6:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall. Masks are required in city buildings.


Govt-and-politics
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Man brandishing two weapons arrested at Noem's campaign stop in Maine for Trump
  • Updated

While on the campaign trail for President Donald Trump in Bangor, Maine on Wednesday morning, Gov. Kristi Noem's security detail "responded" to a man brandishing two weapons who was arrested, policy director Maggie Seidel confirmed.

Beitzell

Peter Beitzell, 58, was charged with criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon, a Class C felony, and disorderly conduct, a Class E misdemeanor, according to a press release from Sergeant Wade Betters from the Bangor Police Department. He has since posted his $200 bail and is no longer in jail.

Seidel said Noem and her detail — two South Dakota Highway Patrol troopers — were not injured.

"At no time was she personally in harm's way," Seidel said.

President Trump was not at the event.

Beitzell had been harassing and exchanging words with those gathered at the rally, Betters said, and he became upset after being approached by one of the South Dakota troopers.

"At some point, Beitzell allegedly moved toward the crowd while brandishing a wooden baton and a large fixed-blade knife," Betters said. Security officers then ordered Beitzell to put the weapons away, but he initially ignored them, Betters said.

"At one point, Beitzell allegedly turned and began walking toward one of the security officers while still holding the weapons," Betters said. The man then returned to his vehicle and put his weapons away.

"We thank the two troopers for their calm response to this incident," Tony Mangan, spokesman for the Highway Patrol, said in a statement.

When asked whether the state, Noem campaign or Trump campaign pays for the troopers' travel and what the cost is, Seidel said "the governor's security is always state business, and we don't comment on security." Neither Seidel nor Noem's spokesman Ian Fury would disclose the cost, citing security concerns.

Noem was seen in Bangor, Maine in the morning with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and plans to stop in New Hampshire on the campaign trail Wednesday. She was in Omaha, Neb., on Tuesday night for a Trump rally.

Her previous campaign stops include Texas and Wisconsin last week, and upcoming stops in Florida ahead of Tuesday's election.


Education
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Stevens High School will close in-person school and move to distance learning amid COVID-19 spike
  • Updated

Stevens High School will close in-person classes and move to distance learning Thursday “due to continued new student and staff cases and quarantines,” according to a letter sent to staff and families.

Katy Urban, district information officer, said there have been 11 new cases at the school since Saturday, including five reported Wednesday alone. Most of the cases are connected to activities, Urban said.

The move follows a pattern from the week prior where seven students tested positive for COVID-19 in a single day. Last week, district officials said the high school would switch to Level 3 if it “continues to see an influx in new cases.”

The school will remain in Level 3, distance learning, from Thursday through next week. Rapid City Area Schools leaders made the decision to change the school’s level and will reassess sometime mid- to late next week, the letter states.

Students will participate in e-learning and the letter instructed families to communicate with their child’s teacher and access schoolwork through Canvas and Gradebook.

The letter asks parents and staff to “be watchful” of COVID-19 symptoms during the next 14 days. Students who are identified as close contacts to COVID-19 cases will be contacted by RCAS employees or a state health department official.