Another eight South Dakotans have died from COVID-19 as hospitalizations, rates of new cases and active cases continue to break records six months after the pandemic first hit the state.
According to the Department of Health’s daily coronavirus update, the new deaths match the highest one-day total in South Dakota. Eight deaths were also reported on Sept. 16.
Thursday’s numbers show the deaths were accompanied by 463 new confirmed cases of the virus Thursday. That’s a single-day record for new cases, outpacing the previous record of 445 set Wednesday.
“We need everybody working really hard to see any change in the numbers,” South Dakota Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon told reporters during a press call Thursday. “If you’re not isolating, we’re going to continue to see high numbers.”
People dying from COVID-19 were from across the state. Two were in Minnehaha County, while one each was in Walworth, Union, Pennington, Hughes, Butte and Brown Counties.
Total coronavirus-related deaths in the state stand at 210.
Of the deaths reported Thursday, seven were people over 80 years old, while one was person was in their 70s.
While it’s unclear if any of the newly reported deaths were in nursing homes, assisted-living centers or other long-term care facilities, state health officials said Thursday that there have been 15 residents of those facilities have died with COVID-19.
In total, the state has seen 226 cases in residents at long-term care facilities and 460 cases among staff. Long-term care facility staff account for 17 of the 1,375 coronavirus patients who have been hospitalized at some point during the pandemic.
Visitations to long-term care facilities largely halted in March but visitations policies could be reinstated in the coming days.
State officials said during a weekly call with healthcare partners on Thursday that the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services plans to release guidance in the coming days for nursing homes on how to reopen facilities to visitors.
Whether indoor visitation will be allowed will depend on a county’s infection rate and if cases have been seen in the facility in the last 14 days.
Active cases of COVID-19 increased to 3,291, the highest amount experienced in the state to date and 183 more than the day prior, which set a record.
Counties experiencing the highest number of new cases included Minnehaha (+70), Pennington (+51) and Brown (+45).
The health department’s website says 194 people are in the hospital with coronavirus, up from 192 Thursday.
Malsam-Rysdon said 35 different hospitals in the state are treating at least one patient that has COVID-19. And of the 245 staffed Intensive Care Unit beds in the state, 101 are available, she said.
She said the Department of Health is not aware of any hospitals in the state being at capacity or unable to admit critical COVID-19 pateints.
While the state’s hospital bed availability is at a level that officials say they remain comfortable with, Malson-Rysdon said the South Dakota National Air Guard basis remained committed to standing up two, 100-bed temporary field hospitals in Sioux Falls and Rapid City if necessary.
“Those were always intended to be surge capacity,” she said. “We have not needed to use that, and we are not actively looking at that as a need at this point.”
Of the 2,166 tests reported, 21% were positive, according to state health officials.
South Dakota epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton said people need to pay attention to the level of community spread in their counties. If they are substantial, they need to adjust their behavior and think twice about going into public settings to reduce their chances of contracting the coronavirus
“When there is a high level of community spread and a lot of new cases, people need to take additional action,” he said.
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