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National Guard Deployed To Assist COVID Testing West River

Allie Geier-Barlow
South Dakota National Guard member Dylan Kasma collects a sample from a patient at the drive-through testing site at the Monument Health Urgent Care Clinic on Jackson Boulevard in Rapid City on Tuesday morning. The National Guard is helping Monument Healt

The South Dakota National Guard is helping Rapid City-based?Monument Health?with COVID?testing.?The health system has also announced it will delay non-essential surgeries to?maintain?patient capacity.? 

Monument Health requested?help?with?COVID 19?testing late last week.?Nine Guard members are?assisting?the Rapid City-based health system?take?COVID samples?at all?its?drive-through testing locations from Belle Fourche to Custer.? 

Monument Health says it has adequate supplies for increased testing. It says National Guard assistance will allow the system to test more patients and fully utilize?its?testing equipment.? 

Governor?Kristi?Noem?says since the start of the pandemic, the state has worked with hospital systems to manage hospital capacity.? 

“Testing efforts help us to identify and isolate cases to slow the spread of the virus,” said Governor?Noem. “This past week, I had conversations with all three South Dakota hospital systems and asked them what they needed as cases start to rise again. Monument asked for the National Guard to assist them in their testing efforts, and we are happy to help.”? 

The soldiers are activated under FEMA Title 32, meaning that their efforts will be federally funded.? 

Monument Health says it’s performed?2,856 COVID-19 PCR tests?in the last week. Of those,?844 were positive for a positivity rate of 29.6 percent.? 

Emily Leech,?Director of the Monument Health Laboratory Services, says testing volume in August was 115 percent higher than it was in July.?Most of these patients are unvaccinated.? 

The number of COVID 19 patients?in?the Monument Health system?has nearly doubled in just one week. The system is?currently?treating 110 patients. A?month?ago?there were just five?in the Black Hills?area.? 

As cases declined in the spring following early vaccination efforts and before the rise?in cases caused by?the Delta variant,?Monument Health?downsized?it’s COVID surge unit.? 

Dan Daly is a spokesperson with Monument Health.?He says the system is rearranging resources to respond to demand.?? 

“We’re doing a number of things, including converting some of our patient rooms for intensive care patients,” Daly says. “We’re shifting some staff around to help at the hospitals.”? 

Daly says the system is considering other measures and will adjust its operations.?