Noem optimistic about trend of infections in South Dakota

A car pulls up to the screening station on Thursday, May 14, at the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribal Health Center in South Dakota. (Erin Bormett/The Argus Leader via AP)

SIOUX FALLS (AP) – Gov. Kristi Noem said Tuesday that South Dakota is seeing “fantastic” trends in the projected coronavirus rates.

While Noem said she hates to see new hospitalizations or deaths from COVID-19, she told reporters in her daily briefing, “We do know we're far below what our projections are, and that's a good thing for our state.”

South Dakota health officials reported two new deaths from COVID-19 Tuesday, bringing the state’s death toll to 46. Statewide, the number of confirmed coronavirus infections grew to 4,085, up 58 from the previous day.

Coronavirus infections began to show up in the state in mid-March, several weeks after other areas such as New York and California. While there have been several spikes in infections, most noticeably after an outbreak at a Smithfield food processing plant in Sioux Falls sickened over 800 employees, many rural counties have reported under a dozen infections.

Noem, who projected a peak of infections in mid-June, has so far avoided issuing sweeping stay-at-home orders or business closures.

“The trends that we're seeing are fantastic," Noem said. The Republican governor said at this point, South Dakota's coronavirus rates were supposed to be escalating, “and we're far below that.”

Minnehaha County, South Dakota's most populous county, continues to lead the state in infections, with 3,165 cases and 40 deaths.

In the county seat of Minnehaha County, Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken is preparing to lift all COVID-19 business restrictions in South Dakota’s largest city.

The Argus Leader reported the mayor is proposing to repeal the “no mingling” ordinance that caps the size of groups that can be in bars and restaurants. TenHaken said in an email to City Council members on Monday that Minnehaha and Lincoln counties are “experiencing a regular downward trend” in COVID-19 data.

The ordinance has been in effect since May 9. The council would take a final vote at a special meeting on May 26. If adopted, it would go into effect May 29.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

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