Testing for COVID-19 in western South Dakota

RAPID CITY, S.D. — COVID-19 cases from east to west in South Dakota prove lopsided. The question from many, who is getting tested west river?

Michelle Stephens, the vice president of operations with Monument Health says hospitalized patients and health care workers who show symptoms are the priority.

“Our outpatient testing are generated by our nursing triage line and they’re following those CDC guidelines.” said Stephens.

Even for the high priority candidates, testing is limited by supplies. Swabs and transportation kits are getting harder to come by nationwide. Stephens says the supplies are sent mostly to hot spots around the country.

Given the low number of coronavirus patients west river and the lower population density, the priority remains elsewhere. Still, a shipment of tests is set to arrive on monument’s doorstep next week.

“So what we’re looking at doing with the tests in house, once we get that allocation, we’ll limit that to our hospitalized patients and send other tests to Mayo Clinic or state health lab” said Stephens.

The state reports all negative and positive tests results processed at the public health lab and private labs. But the breakdown of how many of those tests there are and where exactly they’re coming from is a mystery.

Since March 19, Sanford Health in Sioux Falls has been increasing their test collections and is able to turn around results in house. From March 19 to 25, 1,176 tests were collected and processed by Sanford. The following week, 2,187 tests were turned around. And most recently, 2,507 tests were collected by Sanford and roughly 84 percent of those tests were processed last week. NewsCenter1 has reached out to Avera Health for similar statistics.

When asking Monument how many tests they administer and send for testing, their response excludes the numbers. “We are not releasing the numbers. We are releasing them to the state health lab, we release every negative and positive that we perform goes to the state health lab so you’ll be able to see by county the positives,” said Stephens.

She says the volume of tests run by Monument depends on the number of patients or people who meet the testing criteria – high-priority or showing symptoms.

“We don’t typically release the total volumes of what we’ve tested and the reason for that is because they’re not the only person performing collection for tests in western South Dakota.”

Monument enforces the CDC guidelines in that they say not everyone needs to be tested. “Testing results may be helpful to inform decision-making about who you come in contact with,” says the CDC. Since there is no treatment for the virus, people with mild symptoms can self-quarantine at home to avoid spread. People who show no symptoms are not tested to avoid the risk of false-negatives and subsequently, what Stephens says is a “false-sense of security.”

With hopes to increase the number of tests administered, Monument is working with local engineers to make up for the lack of swabs and kits to be able to allocate more tests to the high priority patients. And soon they’ll be able to process tests in house as health care systems elsewhere in the state have done.

Categories: Coronavirus, Local News, South Dakota News