South Dakota halts COVID-19 testing due to lack of supplies

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – South Dakota’s public health lab has halted testing for the coronavirus due to a shortage of supplies, Gov. Kristi Noem said Wednesday.

Noem said the lab had been expecting a shipment of supplies earlier this week, but that it was canceled due to a nationwide shortage of enzymes and reagents, which are used for chemical analysis.

The governor said she hoped the lab would be supplied later on Wednesday, though the state’s Department of Health said earlier that there was “no time frame” for when tests would be available. It last ran tests for medium- and high-risk patients on Monday. There are 350 tests pending at the lab.

The lab plans to work “around the clock” once the supplies arrive, Noem said.

Two of the largest healthcare providers in South Dakota said Tuesday they were working to develop testing capabilities.

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.

South Dakota has had 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, including one person who died. More than 500 people have been tested, and health officials have said there is no evidence yet of community spread in South Dakota, which is when officials can’t trace how or where a person caught the disease.

The Department of Health recommends that people exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus isolate themselves. It is still telling physicians to send samples to the state lab in Pierre for testing.

Mike Elliott, the chief medical officer at Avera McKennan hospital in Sioux Falls, said the lack of testing could affect how the hospital operates, including what protective equipment staff use when caring for someone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms and where they place patients in the hospital.

But since there is no treatment specifically targeted at COVID-19, he said it wouldn’t change how patients are treated. Hospitals will still test for influenza and care for people who get seriously ill.

“If you’re sick right now, stay home, isolate yourself, period,” Elliot said.

The governor also warned that the state could see a significant economic impact from the coronavirus. The state is already seeing layoffs.

Noem said the state hasn’t reached the threshold of cases at which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that restaurants and bars be closed.

Secretary of State Steve Barnett said local and primary elections are still set to take place as scheduled because state law does not allow elections to be rescheduled or delayed. Sturgis has a local election scheduled for March 23, and Sioux Falls has a city council and school district election scheduled for April 14. The statewide primary election is supposed to be held June 2.


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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


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