South Dakota hospitals can handle more virus cases, Secretary of Health says
(AP) - South Dakota’s hospitals have plenty of capacity to care for COVID-19 patients, a top health official said Monday, even as the state has become one of the nation’s coronavirus hotspots.
South Dakota has reported the nation’s second-highest number of new cases per capita in the last two weeks, with about 556 new cases per 100,000 people. Health officials reported Monday that 198 more people tested positive, taking the number of active infections to a high of 3,828. More than 200 virus patients were being treated in hospitals.
Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon assured reporters that hospitals have plenty of capacity to treat COVID-19 patients. She said 33 hospital facilities across the state are caring for coronavirus patients and that over 1,000 hospital beds remain available.
"We work very actively with hospitals in the state to understand what’s going on, " Malsam-Rysdon said. “We are very confident that we have the hospital beds we need to serve people with COVID, as well as other health care needs.”
Physicians have been dealing with an uptick in patients from COVID-19 and other medical needs that were delayed earlier in the pandemic when hospitals postponed elective procedures.
Gov. Kristi Noem has taken an approach that focuses on treating COVID-19 cases rather than preventing the virus from spreading. She says the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations is the primary indicator she watches to assess how the virus is impacting the state.
The positivity rate for coronavirus testing in South Dakota has also been sky-high in recent weeks. The seven-day positivity average for testing is over 25%, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
Malsam-Rysdon said the state is working to increase testing in order to drive down the positivity rate.
The state has a goal of running enough tests every month to test the equivalent of 5% of the state’s population. It has already surpassed that number this month. But Malsam-Rysdon said the Department of Health does not have an exact goal of how many more tests it wants to run as infections surge.
Over the course of the pandemic, 21,738 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in South Dakota. More than 80% have recovered, but 218 have died. September has been the state’s deadliest month, with 51 coronavirus-related deaths reported.
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