HURON — One week ago on Friday, May 15, confirmation came from one of the area’s biggest employers that two of the employees at the Huron Dakota Provisions were positive with COVID-19. Those two employees had not shown up in the Friday numbers released by the state.
Before that day was over, it had been confirmed that another employer in town would have a positive on the next day’s numbers.
Then Saturday’s numbers were released by the South Dakota Department of Health (DOH), and instead of three positive tests for Beadle County, there were eight. The rest of the week came with a seeming force - one new positive Sunday, six on Monday, six on Tuesday, 25 on Wednesday, 11 on Thursday, and now 19 on Friday. That’s 76 positive tests in one week’s time when the county had 22 entering the day on May 15, which extended from the county’s first positive case in March.
Beadle is not the only area county seeing a surge. Since May 8, the Heartland Region has seen 96 new positive tests announced by the DOH. Confirmations have come from Dakota Provisions, Link Snacks, Inc. (LSI), and Center for Independence of employees who have been infected.
To this point, there has been only one hospitalization. However, Huron has now seen Dakota Provisions increase its confirmed cases via a press release Thursday to six employees. In Friday’s DOH media call, state officials confirmed 40 LSI employees have been infected with COVID-19. Due to both businesses being deemed essential by President Donald Trump, neither facility can completely shut down, which means both will need to exercise extreme care and caution in protecting employees to negate a further spread.
While state epidemiologist Dr. Josh Clayton reported the 40 positive cases from LSI, he did not confirm any close contacts or family members of employees as part of the positive cases that have been part of the recent Beadle County surge. He stated that directed testing of those employees has been the reason for the county seeing 63% of tests come back positive, which is an extremely high rate. The county had been testing around 10% before the recent surge.
Beadle County has ramped up testing to the point where the county finally moved past the 2% of the population tested mark with Friday’s released numbers. The Heartland region has seen 2.2% of all residents tested at this point, though that will change in the next week as mass testing of senior care facilities will begin in the region next week, and any additional testing is very likely to increase positive case numbers.