Mass testing to begin next week in South Dakota nursing homes, assisted-living facilities

PIERRE, S.D. – The State of South Dakota announced Thursday they will begin a four-week mass testing event targeting the population considered most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Dakota Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon said in a Thursday afternoon press conference that starting next week, the state will test residents and employees of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in areas hit hardest by the pandemic. Testing during the first week is estimated to include roughly 7,400 people.

“This is a very tall order but I’m very pleased by the response by the nursing home and assisted living industry,” said Malsam-Rysdon. “This is a foundation for us in our response moving forward.”

By the second week, Malsam-Rysdon says they will expand testing to other similar facilities within the state to target another 10,200 people. During the remaining two weeks, Malsam-Rysdon says another 4,300 people will receive tests.

During the next month, the state plans to nearly double the amount of COVID-19 tests administered in South Dakota to date. The department assures the public that those who do not fall into this testing category but do show symptoms of the coronavirus, will still have access to a test.

“The reason we’re able to move forward with mass testing at this time is because the supply chain has gotten better on testing supplies as well as the PPE that we need for testing to be done safely,” said Malsam-Rysdon. “When we go in and do the mass testing like we’re proposing we’re still make sure we have the state’s supplies needed to continue to test other people that wouldn’t be part of these mass testing event.”

The specimens will be collected in the facilities and processed either in-house if a laboratory is available, or the state will ensure access to a laboratory off-site.

“The cost to process all of those specimens, no matter where they’re processed, will be covered by the State of south Dakota,” said Malsam-Rysdon. She says federal funds and partnerships with local providers will support the effort.

The state also identifies as a “priority population” the tribal communities in South Dakota. As testing in nursing homes and assisted living facilities moves forward, the state will also begin a testing event with the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate.

The Department of Health says provisions are in place for situations where higher numbers of positive results are found within communities.

“We’re still working through the communication process,” said Malsam-Rysdon. “We are in contact with other tribes who have requested additional testing in their community.”

She adds more details about the locations of where those tests will be distributed will be released next week.

Categories: Coronavirus, Local News, South Dakota News