Department of Health


SDPB's Lori Walsh welcomes South Dakota Department of Health Secretary Kim Malsom-Rysdon to talk about the COVID-19 vaccine and what we can expect in the days ahead. Find it on Apple Podcasts or Spotify today.

DOH: 28 Possible COVID-19 Reinfections in South Dakota

Oct 28, 2020

State health officials say 28 people in the state might be re-infected with COVID-19. State epidemiologist Josh Clayton says these are people who tested positive for the virus a second time at least 90 days after their first infection.

Dr. Clayton says the Department of Health is classifying these as “possible reinfections.” He says the CDC has not given official guidance on confirming a COVID-19 re-infection.

South Dakota Department of Health

South Dakota health officials are preparing to distribute vaccinations for COVID-19 as early as next month.

It’s unclear if any current trials will have a vaccine available by then, but federal authorities are telling states to get ready. 

Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon says the vaccine will go out in three phases.

South Dakota Department of Health

North Dakota is asking people to conduct their own contact tracing as the state’s Department of Health is overwhelmed with new COVID-19 cases.

Here in South Dakota, some doctors are giving similar directions as the Department of Health works to track down close contacts.

Seth Tupper/SDPB

Some local healthcare experts say South Dakota isn’t testing enough people for COVID-19. But the state Department of Health does not have plans to increase its official monthly testing goal. 

Dr. Shankar Kurra is Vice President of Medical Affairs at Monument Health. He says healthcare systems use models to anticipate the level of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the coming months, which can help them anticipate staffing needs and other concerns.  

“If we have the right amount of testing, the numbers tend to be more accurate,” he says. 

Into the Numbers with Elizabeth Racz

Oct 20, 2020

In The Moment … October 20, 2020 Show 924 Hour 1

Yesterday the state Department of Health reported 567 new confirmed cases of COVID-19. Watching a daily count of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths can numb the mind. But every number tells a story, and the story of the pandemic in South Dakota is not an encouraging one.  Elizabeth Racz Ph.D., is an epidemiologist and public health expert at South Dakota Mines & Technology who teaches in the pre-health and biology program on campus. She returns to In the Moment today to help us further understand those numbers. 

South Dakota Department of Health

South Dakota is seeing its highest COVID-19 hospitalization numbers so far. While state health officials insist there’s plenty of capacity statewide, some patients are being diverted hours away from home—and even out of state.

John Bjorkman lives in De Smet. He tested positive for COVID-19 last week and ended up in the hospital on Sunday. There, he took a turn for the worse.

“[I was] really working hard for every breath I could get," he says. "So on Tuesday morning, the nurse practitioner called Sioux Falls and visited with them, and they had no beds available.”

SDPB News: July 24

Jul 24, 2020

The mayor of Rapid City is butting heads with the state Department of Health... Why? Plus, How will COVID-19 affect future state revenue this year? 

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender says he’s disappointed with lack of communication from the state Department of Health.

That comes after the state conducted mass testing at the Avantara St. Cloud nursing home facility in Rapid City, without his knowledge.

Since last week, Pennington County has over 100 new COVID-19 cases, half of which came from that facility. That’s more than 1 in 8 total cases the county has had since the pandemic reached South Dakota.

Nearly all long-term care residents and staff in South Dakota have been tested for COVID-19. Now, the Department of Health has released guidelines for reopening those facilities. 

The plan includes three phases with different levels of restrictions. The first phase now allows outdoor visits between residents and family if the facility has completed mass testing. All residents, staff and visitors must wear masks and be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.


State health officials say the majority of COVID-19 cases connected to the Smithfield meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls have recovered. Meanwhile, other meatpacking plants in the state are seeing cases among employees.

Smithfield was the largest cluster of COVID-19 cases in the nation in mid-April. In total, 841 employees and 245 of their close contacts tested positive. Two employees died.

As of Wednesday, state epidemiologist Josh Clayton says all of the close contacts have recovered. Ten Smithfield employees still have active cases of the coronavirus. 

Minnehaha County—which includes most of Sioux Falls—accounts for more than half of the state’s COVID-19 cases. State and city officials have identified a hot-spot of coronavirus transmission, but won’t publicly identify it. 

Mayor Paul TenHaken says the state identifies hot spots and then works with the city public health departments on mitigation efforts. 

“There is a spot in Minnehaha County that we’re working very closely with the state. I’m not gonna name a business or an organization," says TenHaken, "but we are working with one employer specifically."

State health officials are reluctant to address questions about the projected death rates for COVID-19. They say infection rates, mitigation efforts, and other factors make it difficult to predict, but they outlined the formula they are using. 

Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon says the department’s projections focus on predicting hospital capacity needs, but she notes previous estimates of death rates from COVID-19.

“That ranges from 0.5 to 3 percent of positive cases.”

Cara Hetland / SDPB

Governor Kristi Noem has already issued a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus. But many are waiting for her to declare a public health emergency. 

That distinction is frustrating local leaders—especially after lawmakers defeated a bill that would have granted more specific authorities during a public health emergency. 

A state of emergency gives the governor more flexibility to work with federal partners. It also triggers certain state resources. For instance, the governor declared a state of emergency last year to help responses during major flooding. 

Parkinson Talks The Goverment's Response

Mar 25, 2020
Josh Haiar

In The Moment ... March 25, 2020 Show 781 Hour 2

President Donald Trump. Dr. Anthony Fauci. Governor Kristi Noem. Your local city council and mayor. The Centers for Disease Control. The state Department of Health. Next, we're talking about government response during emergencies. Chuck Parkinson is the host of SDPB's Where Do We Go From Here? He joins us now with insight and experience into what we expect from our government now. 


South Dakota’s public health lab has confirmed five cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. Governor Noem is partially activating the state’s emergency operations center. She says the state and its healthcare professionals are prepared to respond.

The confirmed cases are in Beadle, Charles-Mix, Davison and Minnehaha counties. The fifth case in Pennington county is related to a man in his 60’s with underlying health issues who died on Tuesday.

Governor Noem says COVID-19 is not confirmed to be the cause of death.


Senator Wayne Steinhauer is working to clarify regulations on assisted living and nursing homes with Senate Bill 139. He wants to encourage consolidating long-term care options and make it easier to replace a closed or out-of-date facility.

The bill allows construction of a new facility if it consolidates or merges with another long-term service provider.

South Dakota Department of Health

The South Dakota Department of Health has confirmed two cases of mumps in southeastern South Dakota. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed 30 cases in bordering parts of the state. Many of those Nebraska cases were traced to people attending a wedding. 

Avera Health Communications Coordinator Nathan Johnson says at least one of the mumps cases is in Yankton County, but Avera has not seen any cases at their hospital.

South Dakota Breaks Record for Suicide Deaths in 2017

Jul 24, 2018
South Dakota Department of Health

In 2017, South Dakota saw the highest number of suicides in state history. This is the second time the state has broken its own suicide record in less than five years.

The state Department of Health reports 192 South Dakotans died by suicide in 2017. State epidemiologist Dr. Josh Clayton says the last time the state broke this record was in 2015 with 173 suicide deaths.

“In 2017 we did see about 80% of the suicides from male individuals," he says. "The highest rate of suicides did come among the population of 20 to 24 year-olds.”

Department of Health Encourages Daily Walking

Jul 18, 2016
SD Department of Tourism

The Department of Health is urging South Dakotans to slip on their walking shoes and get active. Experts say walking for just 20 minutes per day is one of the most accessible ways to reduce health risks and improve quality of life.

The Department of Health campaign promoting South Dakotans to walk more is in full swing. The Healthy SD Trails campaign began June 1 and runs until September 30, encouraging people to walk 15 to 20 minutes a day. The DOH promotes awareness of walking’s accessibility for all ages and places.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

State officials from three agencies say South Dakota faces challenges when it comes to nursing home and assisted living care. On July 12 the Regulation of Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Beds Interim Committee met in Pierre.   Members discussed plans to address challenges like infrastructure improvement, staff shortages, and budget constraints.

The Regulation of Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Beds Interim Committee met July 12 in Pierre.

Department of Heath

This fall kids entering 6th grade are required to get a vaccine to protect against meningitis. The change in vaccine requirements for 6th graders results from a bill passed by the 2016 legislature.

The Helmsely Charitable Trust is giving the State Department of Health a $302,500 grant to fund a community justice and mental health early intervention taskforce. The project intends to evaluate how to better help people with mental health issues that end up in the criminal justice system.


South Dakota Chef Supreme Court Justice David Gilbertson is leading the taskforce. He says a study conducted last year found that South Dakota faces challenges in providing access to mental health care.


A Brookings group and the state Department of Health want businesses to support breastfeeding employees and customers. The city is a pilot community for the Breastfeeding-Friendly Business Initiative. The program educates businesses and employees on the benefits of breastfeeding, as well as state and federal law.


Dept. Of Health Offers Mosquito Control Grants

Mar 15, 2016

Many in South Dakota welcome the arrival of spring and summer. But the season can also bring swarms of pesky mosquitoes. The State Department of Health awards grants funding to help local governments control mosquito populations and prevent West Nile virus.  

South Dakota’s West Nile epidemic peaked back in 2003. Since then, the number of West Nile cases has decreased from over 1,000 to 40 reported illnesses last year.

Lon Kightlinger is the state epidemiologist. He says mosquito control programs and grant funding help reduce the number of West Nile cases each year.  

A bill before the South Dakota Legislature requires doctors to provide additional information to women considering an abortion. The measure adds to the informed consent law.


SD Has First Confirmed Flu Case

Oct 23, 2015

South Dakota has its first confirmed flu case of the season. A Marshall County resident in the 70 to 79 age group was hospitalized with influenza A. Colleen Winter with the state Department of Health says everyone six months and older should get vaccinated

“Flu vaccine is available in your communities,” Winter says. “And that’s the best line of defense. So our message is reach out to your healthcare provider, your healthcare professional, some of the pharmacies are providing vaccines, but now’s the time to get vaccinated.”

The department of health wants to get more people walking.  Mobridge and Keystone are the latest towns receiving grants to access the walkability of sidewalks and streets.

Linda Ahrendt is the chronic disease director at the department of health.  She says exercising just 22 minutes daily significantly reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Grant Promotes Physical Activity at Work

Aug 2, 2015

South Dakota businesses who want to give their employees a chance to be physically active throughout the day can apply for a Steps to Wellness Grant. Funded by the Department of Health, the grant is awarded to 10 businesses across the state. Work sites then receive training to create strategies to promote physical activity in the workplace.