U.S. Surgeon General visits tribal health board, discusses testing site in Rapid City

RAPID CITY, S.D. — U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams was in Rapid City Monday, visiting the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board and Oyate Health Center to gauge how the unit is working to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Adams met with staff members, including the senior director of data management, medical epidemiologist, and the vice president of community health programs. Health leaders discussed how the board is working to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the Indian Health Service.

One way they plan to do this is by opening up a COVID surge testing site in their new building off North Lacrosse Street as they acquire antigen test machines.

“We know that the more people we can test, the more people we can identify that they are carrying the virus and the more likely we’re able to help them quarantine and stop the trajectory of this virus which is ravaging this state and our community right now,” said CEO of the GPTCHB Jerilyn Church.

Church says, at first, the health board will receive a few thousand tests and they plan to have the site up and running in the next two weeks. Those seeking tests would only need to bring identification and have a way to be reached with notification of test results.

The testing will help target the asymptomatic population and people who have been exposed to someone with the virus to include non-Indian Health Service beneficiaries.

“So far we’ve had to prioritize those who are symptomatic and you know when people come in and they’re sick, you can almost guarantee that they are likely to have COVID and you don’t need a test necessarily to verify that,” said Church.

During the surgeon general’s visit, she says she appreciates Adam’s explanations in how the health board can effectively work in conjunction with the state health department to share information since the board works in conjunction with multiple states.

“As long as we have that mutual understanding and respect for each other for each others work that were both doing we can better address the virus by working together and more efficiently and effectively,” said Church.

In navigating the pandemic, Church says she had the opportunity to discuss the needs of the health board to include funding for expanded testing and staffing.

Categories: Coronavirus, Local News, South Dakota News