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State to Test Thousands of Nursing Home Residents and Staff for COVID-19

The South Dakota Department of Health is organizing mass COVID-19 testing of all nursing home and assisted-living residents and employees. Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon says that’s the first of several vulnerable populations the state is targeting over the next several weeks.

Malsam-Rysdon says the mass testing will start next week with nursing homes and attached assisted living facilities in communities with significant spread of COVID-19. She admits it’s a tall order.

“We estimate that to be approximately 7,400 people. In the second week we’d target the other nursing homes in the other geographic areas of the state, and that’s about 10,200 people. Again, that’s both residents and staff."

The rest of the state’s assisted living residents and staff account for another 4,300 tests.

Malsam-Rysdon says this level of testing is possible because the supply chain is more robust.

“Staff at those facilities will do the collection of the specimen itself. And we are helping those facilities that don’t already have a laboratory that they work with to have a commercial laboratory available to process those specimens.”

She adds the state is covering the cost of processing those tests.

Malsam-Rysdon says the state is taking a similar approach with tribal communities starting with the Sisseton-Wahpeton tribe next week.

She says her department is also planning testing for other group-living facilities and critical infrastructure workers.