Noem: Hospitals preparing for surge capacity; all tests in state lab to be processed by Monday

Gov. Kristi Noem

Gov. Kristi Noem said she is continuing to work with hospitals in the state to prepare for more COVID-19 cases, but she also warned the state likely won't return to normal for "many months."

Noem said total cases in the state increased to 46 after five new confirmed cases Thursday, but she said only 30 of those are considered active because 16 patients have recovered.

The state's latest update come through a briefing Thursday.

Noem said 125 tests remain to still pending in state labs, but she expects those to be down to zero by Monday.

Sec. of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said the state lab can process up to 180 tests a day, though it does not reach that capacity each day. She also said private labs at Avera and Sanford have a combined capacity to process 600 tests a day. She did not say how many tests are currently awaiting processing in private labs.

Malsam-Rysdon said she "feels good" about the state's hospital capacity, though she did not provide any specific current numbers. She said 1/6 of the state's ventilators, which are often used to treat the symptoms of COVID-19, are currently in use.

Noem said she is working with state hospitals to make sure they are prepared for "surge capacity" for when cases continue to rise. She has previously said the coronavirus is not expected to peak in South Dakota until May.

The governor said she will pitch legislators on a series of emergency bills to address what she believes will be a months-long fight against the coronavirus. Noem broke with a rosy prediction from President Donald Trump that the economy could be humming again by Easter. She instead said Thursday that she thinks the fight could last “many months.” She'll be asking lawmakers to allow her to adjust the state budget and reallocate funds to battle COVID-19. She says she'll also ask for certain emergency powers.

She has also discussed plans for South Dakota's Veto Day on March 30, which will be virtual this year.

During the briefing, Noem also thanked the people of South Dakota, saying they have been taking the treat seriously, which has helped slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Another positive note from the briefing -- Noem said no other inmates at the Women's State Prison have tested positive for COVID-19. An inmate at the prison was diagnosed earlier this week. Nine inmates escaped shortly afterwards, though all but two have been arrested.
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Gov. Kristi Noem is set to speak Thursday about efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 in South Dakota.

Dakota News Now will carry the briefing live at 12:15 p.m. You can watch it online at our Facebook page.