RAPID CITY, S.D. — Over the last few weeks, South Dakota has reported the most COVID-19 cases in the state since the pandemic began.
“We’re seeing a quicker rise than we ever saw,” said Dr. Shankar Kurra, the Vice President of Medical Affairs for Monument Health.
In the last week specifically, the positivity rate in the state sits at 36.8 percent. In Pennington County that rate is nearly 42 percent, according to the South Dakota Department of Health.
Along with the rise in positive cases, the number of people getting tested has also risen. According to Monument Health Officials in Rapid City, testing numbers are projected to increase over 80 percent per month.
“We anticipate that we’ll do over 18,000 to 20,000 COVID tests this month, which will be the highest month of testing volume we’ve had since the pandemic started,” said Emily Leech, the Director of Laboratory Service at Monument Health.
Leech also shared that Monument Health has performed over 4,600 tests, with 1,755 tests that have come back positive over the last week. She said that’s the highest number the hospital has seen, and that the goal is to have a positivity rate of less than five percent.
Monument Health is also seeing higher volumes and positivity rates in all locations.
In August, members of the South Dakota Army National Guard were activated to help with Monument Health’s testing efforts in Rapid City. Those same guard members will staff a new testing facility at Monument’s Orthopedic and Specialty Hospital.
Leech says that the process of opening the facility took about a week and that Monument Health will evaluate if another testing site is needed in the future.
Those National Guard Members are assisting at Rapid City Urgent Care, the Orthopedic Center and in Spearfish.
“We’ve seen the most increase in testing needs for Rapid City specifically, and that’s why we determined that we needed to act quickly and open this site,” Leech said.
According to Leech, Laboratory Caregivers and Registration Patient Access Caregivers are also helping with the new testing site. She says that Monument Health is still getting the test results of tests out at the normal average turnaround times, which is around 12 hours to 24 hours.
However, Monument Health officials believe that the recent surge case surge in the state isn’t finished.
Doctor Shankar Kurra says the state and area could see these numbers for the next month.
“How far they will go will remain to be seen,” Dr. Kurra said. “We have a plan as we have successfully been able to, you know, go through the delta wave and we will continue to do what we need to do to be of service to the community.”
Dr. Kurra relayed a safety message that he’s been relaying since vaccinations became available.
“Go get the shot to save lives South Dakota,” Dr. Kurra said.
If you would like to schedule an appointment, you can scheulde an appointment through one of the drive-thru locations or on MyChart. You can also call the Nurse Triage Line at 605-755-1350.
The new testing site is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by appointment only.