Department of Health

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 He wants to encourage consolidating long-term care options and make it easier to replace a closed or out-of-date facility.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.