70% of South Dakotans will be affected by COVID-19


Gracie Terrall, Copy Editor

Gov. Kristi Noem now believes 70% of South Dakota citizens will be affected by COVID-19. 

Previously, this number was only 30% percent. Noem attributes this increase to learning more about the virus and how it spreads. 

Noem released a new executive order, Friday, April 3, that extended the emergency order to May 31, which was previously set to expire May 2. Within that executive order, Noem changed her “you should” suggestions to “you shall” and urged business owners to continue to take this seriously. 

With the new emergency order extended, the Department of Education is looking into remote learning for the remainder of the semester. 

“It just doesn’t make sense to bring our kids back into our school buildings this year,” Noem says.

During the meeting with department officials Friday, they unveiled a plan that the Department of Health, along with the three main hospitals in the state (Sanford, Avera and Monument Health) have agreed upon. Within this plan, South Dakota will need 5,000 beds and at least 13,000 ventilators. 

“We are in a much better position in the state of South Dakota than we were when we first had our positive cases start in the state,” Noem said. “Back on March 10, … our plan then looked like we would not have the capacity to take care of individuals. We have put into place mitigation efforts and activities which have given us a much better projection for the future.”

Noem issued another executive order that pertains to specific individuals in Minnehaha and Lincoln county. Individuals who are over the age of 65 or have chronic medical conditions are ordered to stay at home for three weeks. 

Chronic medical conditions include:

  • Lung disease
  • Asthma
  • Heart conditions
  • Suppressed immune systems
  • Individuals with diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Individuals on dialysis

Multiple South Dakota cabinet secretaries joined Noem for her press briefing April 6. They spoke about their different departments and what resources are currently available. 

Department of Social Services

Laurie Mikkonen, finance officer for the Department of Social Services, stressed that there are programs available to strengthen and support families during this time. Programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Medicaid, CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) and childcare assistance are available for people who qualify. Mikkonen urged individuals who are struggling with overwhelmed emotions to visit dss.sd.gov for additional assistance. 

Department of Labor

Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Labor Marcia Hultman said that the main priority is getting payments to people eligible for unemployment insurances. 

Federal guidance for additional $600 payments was received Sunday, April 3 and payments are expected to be issued by Saturday April 11 at 10 pm. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PAU) has been set up for small business owners and independent contractors, who were not previously eligible for unemployment. Currently, claims are not yet being accepted.

Governor’s Office of Economic Development

South Dakota Department of Economic Development commissioner Steve Westra introduced two programs that will help small business owners in the state. South Dakota has been approved by the disaster loan program for a paycheck protection program for small businesses.

It will help employees and business owners during this difficult time. Westra also pointed out Noem’s small business release fund which will use dollars the GOED already has to help businesses across the state. Increments from $5,000 to $75,000 are available. 

Department of Tourism 

“There probably isn’t a sector in our economy that has been more adversely affected than tourism,” secretary of tourism Jim Hagen said. 

Within the first week of the pandemic, a hotel owner in the Black Hills lost over a million dollars in reservations. According to the United States Travel Association, the economic impact will be seven times greater than what it was around 9/11. The South Dakota Department of Tourism has partnered with the Office of Economic Development to notify businesses in the tourism industry about relief packages available to them. Thursday, April 9, the Department of Tourism will hold a webinar to address the latest initiatives the department has in place to help industry members.