Officials report dip in jobless claims, but urge virus caution


SIOUX FALLS (AP) – Even as South Dakota’s unemployment numbers indicated the economic hardships created by the coronavirus pandemic seemed to be easing, officials warned Thursday that residents must remain cautious to prevent the spread of infections.

The state has seen a decrease in the number of new cases over the last two weeks. Health officials on Thursday reported three new deaths from COVID-19, along with 60 new cases. That’s a small increase from daily totals reported earlier in the week.

Health officials warned that even though the warmer weather might entice people to attend summertime gatherings, they must still keep in mind how easily the coronavirus can spread. Other states have seen dramatic spikes in infections  as restrictions have been lifted. 

“We understand that summer is the time when we’re used to mixing in large crowds, attending events, whether it be pool parties or concerts or family gatherings” said South Dakota State Epidemiologist Dr. Josh Clayton. “We can still do so, but need to do so in a safe manner.”

The largest planned event next week is a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore on July 3, which President Donald Trump plans to attend. Organizers are offering 7,500 tickets and don’t plan to enforce social distancing.

An influx of visitors would be good news for the state’s tourism industry, but would pose the risk of new infections.

The total number of coronavirus cases confirmed by the South Dakota Department of Health has reached 6,479, but 86% of those people have recovered. There are currently 800 active cases of COVID-19, and 79 people of them are hospitalized.

Brookings County cases on Thursday rose to 57 positive tests (three new), and 40 of those people had recovered, with 17 active cases. There had been 1,534 negative tests in Brookings County as of Thursday, and three people in the county have been hospitalized at some point, the state reported. There have been no deaths here.

Brookings County remains in the “substantial” community spread category. Substantial community spread means there are five-plus cases of community-acquired COVID-19 in a county or a distinct group of cases in a single area.

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, and death.

Of the deaths reported Thursday, two of the victims were in their 70s and one was in their 40s. They were two women and a man from Buffalo, Faulk and Pennington counties, the Department of Health said. So far, 87 people have died from COVID-19 in the state.

The state on Thursday also reported South Dakota’s first case of multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), a condition that has been present in children where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. DOH officials said the case was in a person under age 18 in East River South Dakota, but declined to name the county where it was located, citing confidentiality.

State Epidemiologist Joshua Clayton said there’s no known cause of the syndrome, but many children with MIS-C have previously had COVID-19 or been around someone who has had COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Regulation reported that during the week ending on June 20, 857 people completed new claims for unemployment, a decrease from previous weeks. 

Over 18,000 people were still receiving unemployment benefits during the week ending June 6, but that was a decline from the peak of unemployment during the first week of May.

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