South Dakota up to 28 cases; governor not ordering closures


Editor's note: Gov. Kristi Noem announced Monday morning that seven new cases of COVID-19 have been identified in South Dakota, bringing the total number of people testing positive to 28. Three of those individuals are hospitalized. There have been no positive tests confirmed yet in Brookings County. Noem said Monday that COVID-19 cases in South Dakota may not peak until May or early June.

PIERRE (AP) – The number of people testing positive for the coronavirus in South Dakota increased to 28, state health officials said Monday, but Gov. Kristi Noem has declined to order businesses to close as her counterparts have in some other areas of country.

Noem and South Dakota Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon told reporters during a conference call that one of the new cases was in Brown County and the other six were in Beadle County. Noem said the victims apparently contracted the virus through travel or by interacting with another person who had it.

However, Noem warned that Beadle County appears to be on the verge of community spread, a term that describes when the source is unknown. She urged local leaders in that county to impose social distancing measures, including limiting group sizes, but stopped short of issuing any executive orders.

Noem, a Republican, has closed schools but she has yet to order any businesses to close as other governors in other parts of the country have. She said during the conference call Sunday that she lacks authority to enforce any such orders.

"I can stand up as governor and give a strong speech telling businesses to shut down, but I don't have the authority to enforce that. Those tools are at the local level. The actual enforcement of that is very difficult for a governor," she said. “I am going to have a harsher message for the county of Beadle. I'm going to ask you and your local leadership to be much more stringent.”

The Rapid City Journal reported that Pennington County commissioners complained during a special Saturday meeting that coronavirus shutdowns elsewhere are going too far. They said similar shutdowns in South Dakota could result in hundreds of layoffs and the loss of tens of millions of dollars in business and tax revenue.

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 within weeks.

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