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As many as 600,000 South Dakotans could contract COVID-19, Noem says
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As many as 600,000 South Dakotans could contract COVID-19, Noem says

Projections shared by South Dakota's Department of Health and officials from the three largest hospital systems in the state show that up to 70 percent of the state could contract COVID-19.

Gov. Kristi Noem said Friday at news conference that anywhere from 30 to 70 percent of the state’s population, or roughly 265,000 to 600,000 South Dakotans, could get infected.

She said the projections show that the peak infection rate is somewhere from mid-June to the end of June but added this is a “fluid” situation.

Noem also added that she hasn’t issued a shelter-in-place order, stricter business closures or border closures in the state because “we would have to sustain that through October.”

“If I put those measures in place, you need to be able to do that until October,” the governor said. “The longer you put in mitigation measures, the more you do flatten the curve and bring down the number of people that will be hospitalized at one time, it pushes the date out.”

No other state governors have mentioned October as an end date for stay-home orders or other mitigation efforts. Many governors maintain that they will re-evaluate their orders in April or May.

By the peak infection rate in mid-June, Noem said the state will need 5,000 hospital beds and 1,300 ventilators.

The state doesn’t have those numbers now. Department of Health secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon said the state now has 525 ventilators and has requests out to FEMA and private suppliers for more.

The National Guard will also work to set up temporary 100-bed hospitals across the state, starting in Rapid City and Sioux Falls before they look to other communities in need.

Noem wouldn't say whether those hospitals could be set up in empty schools and civic centers across the state. Schools are closed until May 1, but Noem said she plans to update schools next week about her plans for closures.

Noem also said the state could potentially see two peaks.

“Viruses tend to come and peak and disappear and then come back in the fall,” she said. “We need to be prepared for that, as well, that we could see another round come through. We may not, but typically in these pandemic situations, we do see that.”

Dr. Joshua Clayton, state epidemiologist, fielded a question about whether the coronavirus has a seasonal pattern like influenza, which sees its peak from October to May.

“If I had a crystal ball, I would be able to fully answer that question,” he said. “The important thing to note is that this is not going away anytime soon.”

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