Noem says COVID-19 will last months despite Trump's optimism

SIOUX FALLS (AP) – Gov. Kristi Noem said Tuesday that South Dakota may be as much as eight weeks away from the peak of the COVID-19 crisis and needs to limit business activity, even as President Donald Trump considers relaxing national guidance.

“This situation is not going to be over in a week. ... We have another eight weeks until we see our peak infection rate," Noem told reporters.

The Republican governor said she'll continue to support restrictions on businesses and social gatherings. She expects infections to increase and is bracing the state's health care system for a surge of patients. She ordered schools to remain closed and state employees to work from home until at least May.

The Sioux Falls School District announced that a staff member had tested positive for the coronavirus. It was not clear if the person was infected recently or before Noem ordered schools closed.

When the governor was asked if she is considering lifting her executive order that recommends businesses to limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people, she said she hasn't ordered any businesses to close. The move to ask, rather than demand, that businesses and municipalities self-regulate has irked some mayors who are calling for statewide enforcement.

“Any changes we make for how we conduct our daily lives have to be sustained,” Noem said.

COVID-19 infections are now spreading in communities throughout the state, as the total number of positive tests rose to 30 on Tuesday.

The governor said that nine women on Monday escaped from the Women's Prison in Pierre, where one inmate tested positive on Monday. One of the women who escaped has been apprehended, and three others were taken into custody Tuesday on the Crow Creek Reservation.

Noem confirmed that the escapees were from the same unit as the woman who tested positive, but the governor did not know how close in proximity the women had been. Officials are keeping the woman with COVID-19 in isolation. Secretary of health, Kim Malsam-Rysdon says an investigation is underway into how the coronavirus spread to the prison and who might be at risk for infection.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild cases recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe ones can take three to six weeks to get better.

One state lawmaker had to be airlifted to a hospital in Sioux Falls on Monday after he became infected. Rep. Bob Glanzer, a Huron Republican, is one of 13 people who have tested positive in Beadle County, where testing shows the outbreak is the worst in the state.

Noem said lawmakers are considering holding their final scheduled meeting of this year's legislative session via teleconference next week.

The state's public universities have canceled all in-person classes for the rest of the semester and postponed graduation ceremonies as the state expects COVID-19 infections to rise through the spring.


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