Secretary of Health issues a public health emergency for Minnehaha county


Gracie Terrall, Copy Editor

Gov. Kristi Noem confirmed in her April 10 press briefing that there are 190 positive cases of COVID-19 tied to Smithfield Foods Inc. in Sioux Falls.

Dr. Joshua Clayton, the state epidemiologist, joined Noem and South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon during the press briefing. According to Clayton, of the 190 cases at Smithfield, most of them are employees. 

In addition to the three-day shutdown of Smithfield for cleaning, the company is implementing new protective measures to help keep employees safe. Noem said they are working with interpreters so non-English speakers working at Smithfield can fully understand the severity of the virus. 

“Every day, we re-evaluate and we will continue to do that in this situation,” Noem said.

Noem also stressed that individuals stay home over the holiday weekend and continue practicing social distancing. Noem encouraged people to download the Care 19 app – a tool to help positive tested people track where they have been.

“When someone tests positive in the state of South Dakota, we have an investigative team that immediately works with them to determine where they might have been while they were contagious and who they might have exposed to the virus,” Noem said.

Clayton addressed the widespread assumption that COVID-19 will decrease with warmer weather. Clayton said that while other respiratory diseases like influenza decrease during the summer months, COVID-19 is a novel — or new — virus, and people don’t know how it will act.

“It is the first time we have seen [coronavirus] in human populations,” Clayton said.

The secretary of health will be issuing a public health emergency for Minnehaha county at the governor’s direction.

“This is a proactive step that we’re using to make sure the authorities are in place should the time arrive in the future where we would need to use them,” Noem said.

Noem is pleased with the results from the past few weeks. Based on models and projections, she believed South Dakota would have had many more positive cases at this time. 

“The work that the people of South Dakota have been doing is working,” Noem said.