Unemployment claims increase to the thousands within weeks


Gracie Terrall, Copy Editor

Gov. Noem announced in a press conference Thursday, March 26, that there are now 46 positive cases of COVID-19 in South Dakota. 

Of those 46 cases, 16 patients have fully recovered. Currently, there are 125 pending cases. Noem anticipates zero pending cases by Monday, March 30. 

Thursday evening, March 26, Noem plans to speak with state legislators about Veto Day and the state budget. She also spoke briefly about her conversations with the federal delegation regarding the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.)

“There will be revenues coming to our state that will help us pay for some of the cost in response to COVID-19,” Noem said. 

South Dakota has seen dramatic increases in unemployment claims. Last week (March 16-22) there were 1,703 claims filed for unemployment benefits. 

Most of the claims were first-time applicants. The number of cases seen last week now match the number of cases filed per day. Noem expects there to be an even higher increase next week. 

“It is something that we have to continue to balance with every decision that we are making,” Noem said. “How we are impacting not only public health and keeping people safe, but how we are making sure they are putting food on the table.”

Secretary of the Department of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon spoke on the capacity within the hospitals and supply availability. As of today, there are two or three positive patients in the hospital. Only one-sixth of the state’s ventilators are being used, and hospitals are planning to add capacity to make room for more beds when the time comes. State supplies are holding up and are planned to last for several weeks. 

In regards to testing availability, Malsam-Rysdon says healthcare providers need to be making the right decisions that have the best impact on the state’s population— this includes calculating who gets tested. 

“We need to be good stewards of the resources that we have,” Malsam-Rysdon said. 

South Dakota is following CDC guidelines and following protocols for determining who gets tested. 

However, Noem stressed that there will come a time when testing for everybody will not be able to happen. 

Noem does not foresee the state to be up and running by Easter, contrary to what Pres. Trump has planned for. Noem claims the state will be operating differently for weeks to come. 

“This virus is an enemy we are all fighting, but we can’t stop it in South Dakota,” Noem said. “We can protect people and let it work its way through in a manner we can manage as best we can.”

Earlier this week, a caregiver at Monument Health in Rapid City tested positive for COVID-19. The caregiver came into contact with over 100 individuals— mostly immunocompromised cancer patients. Individuals who came into contact with the positive case are being asked to quarantine for 14 days and are being monitored. Noem assured that those in contact with the positive case will likely be tested shortly. 

Healthy South Dakotans, specifically those with experience in healthcare, are encouraged to visit volunteers.sd.gov to offer help.