Apr 6, 2020

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem COVID-19 Briefing April 6

South Dakota Governor April 6
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsSouth Dakota Governor Kristi Noem COVID-19 Briefing April 6

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem held a press conference on coronavirus on April 6. Read the full transcript here.

 

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Speaker 1: (00:00)
(silence).

Speaker 1: (00:00)
Orders of the reservation [inaudible 00:00:28]. (silence).

Kristi Noem: (01:28)
Good afternoon. Thank you all for joining me here today. I want to thank you for all of your efforts throughout the COVID-19 virus spread through the state of South Dakota. We will get through this together, and I appreciate all of you staying engaged and helping take care of each other in your communities throughout the process. This afternoon, I’m joined by several of my cabinet secretaries and commissioner. To my left I have Kim Malsam-Rysdon, who is our Department of Health secretary. Next to her is Steve Westra, commissioner of economic development. Next to him is Jim Hagen, my secretary of tourism. I also have Laurie Gill with me, who is our secretary of social services, and then Marcia Hultman, who is also with the Department of Labor and the secretary there as well. I appreciate all of their help. They’re all going to share with you some of the resources we have at the state level and some of the activities that they have been busy doing to take care of our state.

Kristi Noem: (02:21)
On Friday, we sat here with the Department of Health officials and our state epidemiologist and our secretary talking about the plan for the state of South Dakota. We also had representatives here from our three major health systems in the state, from Avera from Sanford, from Monument Health. We all agree to the plan and the projections for our state and how we would prepare to take care of those individuals that may need healthcare services and hospitalization when we reach our peak into the future. At that time, if you remember, we all agreed that we would need 5,000 beds in the state of South Dakota to take care of COVID-19 patients, and that we also would need 1,300 ventilators and agreed that that was something we could accomplish together and that we would work on a plan to get there in plenty of time to make sure that we were addressing that need.

Kristi Noem: (03:12)
Our numbers show that we are in a much better position in the state of South Dakota than we were when we first had our positive cases start in our state. Back on March 10th is when we had our first positive case of COVID-19 in the state of South Dakota. Our plan then at that time looked like we would not have the capacity to take care of individuals, and we have put in place mitigation efforts and activities which have given us a much better projection for the future. We have all agreed that we are prepared to take on our surge capacity and are looking forward to securing those details that we need to in order to have the ability to handle that when the time comes. We’ve spent the last several days working on securing ventilators and other supplies. We’re making progress there. We have good news, but we also will continue to work towards that, secure those kinds of utilities and needs and supplies for the future going forward.

Kristi Noem: (04:11)
Today, we are at a critical juncture. In order for us to continue to flatten the curve, I’m taking additional steps that will help us do that. We do have a plan that we’ve all agreed to, and we’re going to stick to that plan, but we still can put in place some efforts that will help us even more be aggressive going after flattening that curve. First, regarding my executive order that I had previously signed in the state of South Dakota, we are going to address that as well. That was set to expire on May 2nd. Today, I’m issuing a new executive order that will extend those efforts through May 31st. Now, South Dakotans have just really stepped up. They have applied social distancing. They have followed the CDC guidelines that we have recommended of washing their hands, staying six feet away from each other, practicing social hygiene efforts. We’ve just really appreciated all that they have done to follow that guidance. What that laid out in the executive order was incredibly important for folks to follow.

Kristi Noem: (05:15)
With the new executive order that I’m putting forward, we are taking that language and putting it in place through May 31st, and we are changing the shoulds to the shalls so that we fully comply with the plan that we laid out for you on Friday. Now, I know in this state a lot of businesses are struggling. We know that they’re trying to adapt, and every business owner out there, I know. Just know that we understand your struggles. We want to encourage you to continue to keep innovating. It’s been incredibly impactful for me to see the efforts that they’ve done to protect their customers, to protect the families that work for them, to make sure that they’re adding as much security as possible for the state of South Dakota throughout this time that so much is unpredictable.

Kristi Noem: (06:02)
As the chief executive of the state of South Dakota, I want to be very clear about two different points. One is that with the science that we have today, we know that we cannot stop this virus. The second point is that if there was an action that I could take today to stop this virus, I absolutely would do it in a heartbeat. Not a question. However, because we can’t stop this virus, we need to keep trying to slow it down. Now with the model and with the projections that we agreed to on Friday with our healthcare systems, our Department of Health and our state epidemiologist, using CDC guidance and research and projections from across the world and across the country, we are organizing a framework of activities that we can use to match that project and that projections for our state.

Kristi Noem: (06:55)
Our projections are based on a firm commitment to the guidelines that I’ve already laid out, but again, we’ll be changing that language of should to shall, telling the state how extremely serious we are about sticking to the plan that we laid out for you on Friday. That we need that plan to work, we need it to be followed, therefore, the new executive order through the end of May will say, “You shall do this,” because this is the plan that we have all agreed to, and it is the direction that we need to take.

Kristi Noem: (07:24)
Also, I’ll be signing another executive order specifically in regards to individuals within Minnehaha and Lincoln County. This will be an executive order that will address individuals who are over the age of 65 so 65 and older and those that have chronic medical conditions. The chronic medical conditions that will be impacted by this executive order include chronic lung disease and persons with moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, immuno suppressed persons, so people whose immune systems are suppressed, diabetes, liver disease and chronic kidney disease and persons who are on dialysis. This executive order will direct them to stay home for the next three weeks, and let me explain to you why this is important.

Kristi Noem: (08:13)
Our hospitalization data here in the state and across the country is very clear on how this kind of an executive order can have an impact. Only 17% of the cases were under the age of 40. 25% of cases are age range 50 to 59 years old, and 58% of the cases were 60 years and above. In addition, in our state, 13 of the 24 hospitalization cases had chronic conditions including lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, and their immune systems were suppressed because of another condition. This group of individuals needs to take this very seriously. I need this group in Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties to stay home. For the next three weeks, that is your directive through this executive order is to stay home.

Kristi Noem: (09:05)
Now, the conditions of this executive order are very clear. This group needs to be diligent about limiting their travel. Only critical trips will be allowed. They need to wash their hands often, avoid close contact with people who are sick, and they need to clean and disinfect all surfaces often. Nationwide, eight out of 10 deaths have been reported in adults that are 65 years old and older. In South Dakota, three of our four deaths have been in this category as well. Two-thirds of our positive cases in the state are in Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties right now, so we could see a need to extend this kind of action in other counties, but what’s appropriate for today is to address those two counties and the trends that we’re seeing, especially among the vulnerable population in that area of our state. They really need to grab ahold of this executive order and follow the directions that it lays out.

Kristi Noem: (10:03)
Now, I do want to be clear; the most vulnerable should still get plenty of fresh air. Doesn’t mean that you can’t exercise. You can’t go out for a walk or go biking. That’s all fine and it’s encouraged, but I need this group of individuals to practice social distancing and complying with all other measures that are advised by the CDC when they are out. Do not forget how important protecting your mental health is throughout this entire scenario. In fact, it’s just as important as your physical health. I’m going to have Secretary Gill here talking a little bit about the importance of mental health and the services that are available from the state, if you or your family are finding it extremely challenging to get through this difficult time.

Kristi Noem: (10:46)
I don’t want anybody to feel overwhelmed. I want you to have clear direction on guidelines that you can follow, but also know that we’re here to walk alongside you throughout this entire process and be with you. I know many people tell me on a daily basis how stressed out there, but if we buckle down and if we link arms and do this together mentally, we certainly can take care of our most vulnerable population. We can continue to flatten the curve, and we can continue to manage our hospital resources, which is something that we need to make sure we do in order to get through this together.

Kristi Noem: (11:22)
On Friday, I also told you that I was going to be making an announcement about schools. I want to thank our teachers and our administrators. They have been absolutely amazing in what they’ve done for our kids and our students across the state of South Dakota. Not only have the schools but also South Dakota public broadcasting, our internet providers, our Department of Education, Northern’s e-learning center. Others have created greater capacity for supporting remote learning and educational opportunities throughout our state to get the kind of resources out to students that need it and need to continue their education, even though they can’t be in the building now.

Kristi Noem: (12:00)
Given the projections and the modeling that we’ve seen, it just doesn’t make sense to bring our kids back into the school buildings the rest of this year. So the Department of Education will continue working with our schools to outline what this means for remote learning throughout the end of the school year. I know this is going to be hard for a lot of people. We’ve got a lot of seniors that really didn’t know that their year would end like this. They didn’t know that they would have a very different kind of high school experience than what they anticipated. I’ve got a high school senior myself who’s looking at a very different senior year than what he had anticipated. But, I do know that this is a time that we all can support each other and encourage each other, and I know that our school systems and volunteers will continue to provide what our kids need to be successful.

Kristi Noem: (12:49)
So with that, I’m going to open it up to the other individuals that are here with me to speak to some of the topics that are in their realm of excellence and their realm of knowledge to let you know some of the resources that may be available. We’ll start with Laurie.

Kristi Noem: (13:03)
… have knowledge to let you know some of the resources that may be available. We’ll start with Laurie.

Laurie Gill: (13:06)
All right, good afternoon. My name is Laurie Gill, and I’m the Secretary for the Department of Social Services. Our agency has programs that help to strengthen and support individuals and families. The Department of Social Services has taken aggressive steps to assist people across the state while protecting the health of those that work for us and the public, and we have added flexibility where we can to our programs, also, within state law and federal law. With that, our goal is that we are open for business. We continue to provide services. Benefits are available. That’s an important message that I want to make sure that we get across today.

Laurie Gill: (13:51)
Our staff are working remotely. Our local offices are closed, once again, for the safety of the general public and for our staff. But our staff are working remotely and behind closed doors to keep applications flowing, benefits available, and the services being provided. Critical tasks continue to be completed, and customers are asked to utilize our online resources to be able to apply for the benefits and services that we have available and to do business with the Department of Social Services. You can also call your local offices to get some assistance. If you need to find those phone numbers, all of the information is available on our Department of Social Services website, dss.sd.gov.

Laurie Gill: (14:40)
Economic assistance is available for families who are struggling financially. Help is available, and we have several programs that you might consider if you are eligible. We have the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. We have Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF. We have Child Care Assistance Program, Low Income Energy Assistance Program, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. Individuals and families must meet eligibility requirements, and to find out if you do, please go to the website that I’ve mentioned already, dss.sd.gov, and you can apply online if you go there. That’s how we encourage you to continue to get the services that you need.

Laurie Gill: (15:28)
Now, we’ve also heard about those that are struggling. This is an extremely stressful time, and there isn’t any one of us out there in the state that isn’t affected by this and isn’t struggling at some point. If you or your family members find yourself struggling with substance abuse or with mental health issues, we have help available. DSS works with treatment providers across the state, and we do have help for you, no matter where you’re living. If you’re remote, if you’re urban, wherever you are, there is help available. You can once again go to the website, dss.sd.gov, and click on the Behavioral Health link, and you will find a list of the resources. You can find the help that’s in your area.

Laurie Gill: (16:15)
If a friend or family member or yourself is feeling overwhelmed with emotions such as sadness, depression, anxiety, please reach out. We have a suicide prevention lifeline that is available, and that number is 1-800-273-8255. You can find this information online if you don’t have a pen handy, can’t remember it, but remember to go to the DSS website.

Laurie Gill: (16:44)
I just want to make sure that you all are also aware that the South Dakota Medicaid program has added flexibilities, and that’s been the Medicaid program’s response to the COVID-19 issues that are going on right now. We’ve got wider use of telemedicine services that are available to both providers and to recipients, and we also have added the ability to refill prescriptions sooner. Those are key elements that are trying to make things better and easier for folks in this time. The Medicaid team continues to work remotely and support both providers and recipients. Claim payments continue uninterrupted, so we’re working behind the scenes to keep that flowing as well. For more information on Medicaid, please go to dss.sd.gov and click on the Medicaid tab.

Laurie Gill: (17:37)
For all of you, there are services available, and we want to make sure that you’re aware of that. Please consider reaching out if you need some help.

Kristi Noem: (17:44)
I’m not sure if it’s there, Lori, but on the COVID website, maybe we could put a link to your page so it’s easier to navigate. We’ll get that up and going.

Laurie Gill: (17:52)
Yep, absolutely. We should be linked together.

Kristi Noem: (17:54)
Okay, great. Marcia, could you speak to… I know with the Department of Labor and Regulation, you’re dealing with a lot of unemployment claims, so if you would give us an update on that?

Marcia Hultman: (18:01)
Certainly. Thank you. Again, Marcia Hultman, Secretary of the Department of Labor and Regulation. We are going about doing all of the other business we’re responsible for, but our primary function and focus has been on getting payments to individuals who are eligible for unemployment insurance in the state, and some very common questions, some updates that I have from the last time I visited with you.

Marcia Hultman: (18:23)
One thing that’s been very much in the press is individuals are eligible for an additional $600 in a federal benefit. We just received the guidance on that Saturday at 10:00 p.m., so we’re working diligently to get the coding done so we can make that payment. We do believe that we’ll be able to start issuing those payments for the work week ending this Saturday, so that is coming. There is nothing additional individuals need to do to request that payment. If you have filed and are deemed eligible for unemployment insurance, that is automatically added to your state benefit. Again, not necessary to call or request or refile. It’s all taken care of through your initial claim.

Marcia Hultman: (19:08)
Additionally, there’s been a lot of press, a lot of news talking about individuals that typically are not eligible for assistance that under the COVID-19 CARES Act will now be eligible. Those are individuals like small business owners, independent contractors, gig workers. Anybody that may fall in that category and has had a cessation in work or a closure related to the COVID-19 may now be eligible.

Marcia Hultman: (19:37)
The guidance for this program… It is called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and we will refer to it as PUA, but I hate to get lost in acronyms. We received the guidance for that program at 10:00 last night, so again, we’re working diligently. We are not yet taking claims for that particular program. Anybody that’s an independent contractor, small business owner, etc., should wait. We will be out in front of the press to every extent possible to let individuals know when they can start filing those claims, but for right now, please hold off from calling our call center.

Marcia Hultman: (20:14)
Speaking of our call center, good news to report today. When we started this, we had approximately 11 people on a normal day that were answering phones and taking claims, and you’ve all seen the increase in initial claims and can understand what that’s done to volume. We have added capacity starting late last week, that we have an additional 50 to 60 people answering phones at any one time. Our wait times have been greatly reduced today. I don’t want to jinx us, but great improvements there. Now we need to continue moving those claims through the process to make sure everybody gets the benefit that they may be eligible for.

Marcia Hultman: (20:51)
With that, I’ve had questions. We have not hired any new people to take this on. We have reassigned, redirected existing staff to take on these responsibilities. It was easiest, as they had some base knowledge on the system, to get them up to speed and be able to help us with that process.

Marcia Hultman: (21:10)
Just one last point I want to make that’s really important. Quitting work without good cause to obtain UI benefits is considered fraud. If your employer has work available for you, and you quit or decide to stay home, you may not be eligible for benefits. So it’s really important to remember you can’t just decide to self-quarantine. You can’t quit without a verified medical reason to be doing so. Also, if you’ve been laid off and your employer calls you back and you refuse to return to work, you could also lose that state benefit and that additional federal benefit.

Kristi Noem: (21:48)
Thank you, Marcia. I do know that many of our businesses in the state have been extremely flexible with their employees and have been working with them if they do fear that they have been exposed to someone who’s tested positive. I haven’t heard of an employer that’s not taking precautions and allowing them to isolate, so I appreciate our employers doing that and people continuing to reach out in those circumstances.

Kristi Noem: (22:09)
I’m going to have our commissioner of economic development, Steve Westra, talk a little bit about some of the federal programs and a state loan program that we’ve recently stood up that’s available to those in the state.

Steve Westra: (22:20)
Well, good afternoon. I’m Steve Westra, the commissioner in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. I thank you all, and more importantly, I thank you, governor, for this incredible balancing act to care for the sick and to protect the vulnerable here in the state of South Dakota while allowing our businesses to be innovative during this very, very difficult time.

Steve Westra: (22:38)
I want to discuss two programs right now in the state that will help our small businesses through this difficult time. As you all know, South Dakota has been approved by the SBA for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. And as the phase three portion of what Congress passed roughly a week ago last Friday, the rollout of the Paycheck Protection Program was rolled out. I want to just point out to everybody there’s been a lot of, I think, frustration on going online with the SBA. The good part about that is, and I want to be clear to everybody, is you now have the ability to go to your local lenders within your communities, and they will help you apply for the Paycheck Protection Program. We are encouraging all businesses in the state of South Dakota to look into this, and more importantly, to at least apply for it. It will definitely help them get employees back in place. That is the intent of what Congress passed this for, and it will help just the overall business to get through these very difficult times.

Steve Westra: (23:42)
The other program that I want to point out is Governor Noem’s Small Business Relief Fund. Now, this was a program that was dropped just roughly a week ago in the South Dakota legislature for approval to use dollars that GOED already has and roll it out to help these hurting small businesses. That bill was passed, the governor signed it into law last Tuesday, and as of Friday, it went live on GOED’s website. That is a program that will help provide loans for our small businesses here in the state of South Dakota from $5,000 all the way up to $75,000, in $5,000 increments everywhere in between there. Again, it’s from $5,000 to $75,000. Businesses can go to the GOED website. That’s goedsd.com. Or they can call GOED at 773-GOED to find out more information on this.

Steve Westra: (24:43)
We are encouraging all businesses, as they are going through a difficult time with liquidity, to be looking at that program as well. That program, in particular, can be used for working capital, very attractive terms, 0% interest. There’s no payments for the first six months of that program. There’s no loan fees. It is something that can definitely be deployed rather quickly. Our goal is to be getting, from the time that we get those applications to the time of approval, the dollars actually being deposited in these businesses’ accounts within roughly one week. We know how important it is.

Steve Westra: (25:19)
Last Wednesday was the first of the month. We know that rents are due. We know that utilities are due. We know that health insurance premiums are due. We want to get these dollars out and deployed in South Dakota as quickly as possible to help these businesses through these very difficult times. These loans are going to be based on a first-come, first-served basis. Again, please contact us at goedsd.com.

Steve Westra: (25:45)
Our staff, as well, is working remotely, but I will tell you they’re extremely working hard. I’m very proud. They’re going above and beyond. We all know, as we go through this difficult time on the front end with people being sick on the back end, what we can do now to help these businesses will really change the trajectory of how South Dakota comes-

Speaker 3: (26:03)
Now to help these businesses will really change the projectory of how South Dakota comes out of these economic times. So again, please get ahold of us and we will work through both programs and we will help answer other programs that may be of benefit to you and your company as well. Thank you.

Governor Kristi Noem: (26:18)
With that, I’d like to go to Jim Hagen, who’s the secretary of tourism to talk a little bit about some of the ways they’re partnering with other state agencies and also we all know that tourism is a huge industry in our state. They’ve been particularly hit hard during this COVID-19 incident and we’d like him to talk a little bit about what his people are doing during these difficult times.

Jim Hagen: (26:41)
Thank you so much, governor. Good afternoon. As governor just relayed, there probably isn’t a sector in our economy that has been more adversely affected than tourism. In fact, the first week into this pandemic, I heard from one of our hoteliers in the Black Hills, and he said, “Jim, I’ve already lost $1 million in reservations in just one of my hotels.” So things are really tough out there. We know that. The US Travel Association has shared that the economic impact on travel and tourism will be seven times greater than what we saw during 9/11. So to put that in perspective, we know that we have a hurting industry out there, but here’s what we’re doing at the Department of Tourism to assist our industry and our state’s citizens.

Jim Hagen: (27:28)
One, we have two full time team members who are over the emergency operation center assisting with media and assisting with social media. They wanted to do that. They volunteered, saying, “We want to be a part of helping our state and our citizens and our industry by being over at the EEOC.” I want to thank Commissioner Westra and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. We have partnered very closely with them to make sure that the tourism industry, especially our businesses, know exactly of all the aid and relief programs that are out there to assist them. We have been messaging two to three times a week to our industry to let them know, “Here are the resources that are out there for you to help you get through this pandemic.”

Jim Hagen: (28:10)
We’ve also been partnering very closely with the Small Business Administration. We hosted a webinar with them. We had more than 500 businesses throughout the state participate in that webinar so we could bring them up to speed on, again, “Here are all of the relief and aid packages that are available for you.”

Jim Hagen: (28:26)
We will also be hosting this Thursday a webinar. We’re actually going to record it on Wednesday, we’ll send it out on Thursday, to give an update to our industry on here are all the latest things that we have in place as a tourism department to help you get through this hump. One thing I would encourage is all industry members, tourism industry members in our state to go to sdvisit.com. If you have questions on any resources that are out there for your business or you need any information about the latest COVID-19 information coming from the state, everything is at a that website, sdvisit.com.

Jim Hagen: (29:03)
And one thing I want to share, on an encouraging note, even though things are very, very tough, just in the last few days, we have received emails from visitors, potential visitors in North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Florida, California, and I received an email last night from Switzerland. And this is what the people said to me. We have either been to your state before or we’ve heard about your state and we want to tell you when we get through this, we’re going to come and visit South Dakota. We’re going to be there for you. And that is very encouraging for us. So even though we’re going through these really incredibly tough times, there is light at the end of this tunnel and those emails are incredibly encouraging to us.

Jim Hagen: (29:47)
What they’ve had to say about this visitor industry in our state and what they’ve had to say about our great faces and our great places has been incredibly encouraging. So I want our industry and I want all of our state’s citizens to take encouragement by that and in that.

Jim Hagen: (30:01)
And finally, I would also ask that when we get through this, and we will get through this, that we’re going to need the media’s help and we’re going to need the help of our state citizens to help this industry rebound, because it is going to be an incredibly important industry to not only get the state economies humming, but to get our national economy humming again as well. So I would end with that. Again, I would encourage folks to go to sdvisit.com if you need any resources, especially those in the tourism industry and how we may be of further assistance.

Governor Kristi Noem: (30:35)
Great. Thank you Jim. And again, I just so appreciate so many of our state employees that have stepped up and are helping other departments and agencies where they have a high demand on them right now. So many of them have been volunteering, answering calls, working weekends, working through the night, partnerships like we see between the Department of Tourism and the Department of Economic Development are inspiring and just know that it’s all hands on deck to help South Dakota and our families get through this difficult situation going forward.

Governor Kristi Noem: (31:06)
So with that, again, today’s announcements was resources are available to you, whether it be economic or mental health and labor unemployment, but also two executive orders. The first one that enforces the plan that I unveiled for you on Friday, the second one specifically referencing Minnehaha and Lincoln counties and the vulnerable population there, directing them to stay home for the next three weeks. And then also today an announcement on the end of our school year that our administrators and teachers will continue to deliver remote learning opportunities to our kids to finish out the rest of this school year. So with that, I will open it up to any questions that you may have. [Patrick 00:00:31:57]? [inaudible 00:31:57].

Governor Kristi Noem: (31:56)
There are … every authority I have available to me will be utilized. So this is strong direction from the state of South Dakota on activities that South Dakotans should participate in and follow. Yes. [inaudible 00:32:19]

Speaker 4: (32:34)
[inaudible 00:32:34] Is there a series of events that happened [inaudible 00:32:39].

Governor Kristi Noem: (32:39)
The question is in regards to the infection rate and all that has changed there is the more we’ve learned about this virus. The 30% was people that we believed that would be infected from the virus that had to do with those that showed mild symptoms all the way up to those that would need hospital care or ICU care.

Governor Kristi Noem: (32:59)
What we’ve learned about the virus is that there’s many people who can become infected that have no symptoms whatsoever. So I think the 70% shouldn’t necessarily scare people. It shouldn’t be something that you utilize to be concerned more. It’s just an informative piece of the puzzle that tells you that there are people who will be positive that will be infected with this virus that won’t know it. And that is why we’re encouraging even more discipline when it comes to the social distancing, is because there may be people out and about that don’t necessarily know that they’re positive or carrying the virus because they don’t have any symptoms. Therefore, the rest of us need to take precautions and also in the situation like a vulnerable population, that that’s good information for them to know and to have so they can make better decisions.

Governor Kristi Noem: (33:48)
Further questions? Yes. [inaudible 00:33:57] I have, I received that letter this morning. [inaudible 00:34:04].

Speaker 5: (33:59)
[inaudible 00:33:59] do you have on that, and is it something that you’re consiering, or …

Governor Kristi Noem: (34:11)
The question in the room is on the letter received to me in my office by the Municipal League and local leaders. And I am aware of the letter, we have received it, we’ve looked through it. This is something they’ve asked for previously that we tried to address during the legislative session. If you remember, I brought a bill that I and my team drafted, proposed to the legislature to ask for some of these things that these local leaders have been asking us for. That bill did not pass on veto day. Therefore, we’re continuing to examine the situation and see what would be appropriate. Further questions? There’s a phone question on the line. We’ll take that one and then we’ll take one in the room. Maybe not. We’ll go to a question in the room.

Speaker 6: (35:16)
On the website it mentions [inaudible 00:35:16] hospitalized [inaudible 00:35:18]

Kim Malsam-Rysdon: (35:26)
So the question is relative to hospitalizations …

Speaker 6: (35:29)
Is there a difference between ever hospitalized and currently hospitalized?

Kim Malsam-Rysdon: (35:34)
So the question is about hospitalizations among COVID-19 patients. We are able to keep track of the cumulative number of people that have been hospitalized. That is not the same as the current number. I can tell you, of the new cases that we’ve announced today, that one of those individuals is currently hospitalized.

Governor Kristi Noem: (35:53)
So it is throughout the start of this virus spread in the state of South Dakota. March 10 was when we had our first positive case in our state. Since then, we’ve had 24 different people that have been in the hospital. Some of the statistics I gave you in my opening comments talks about hospital stays. It says that 17% of those who have been hospitalized were less than 40 years old, 25% of them were between the ages of 50 and 59, and 58% of those cases that ended up in the hospital here in South Dakota, they were above 60 years old. So statistically across the state, across the country, in all the different modeling studies that we’ve looked at from across the country and across the world, they all consistently define a vulnerable population, and that is folks that are over the age of 65, which is the recommendation from CDC as well, and those that have chronic health conditions.

Governor Kristi Noem: (36:52)
That’s why you’re seeing us specifically direct activities or lack of activities for those individuals in Minnehaha and Lincoln County that are defined as that vulnerable population. These are people with chronic lung disease, that have severe asthma, if they have heart conditions, if their immune system is suppressed for one reason or another, diabetes, if they have liver conditions or chronic kidney disease, and persons who are on dialysis. Those individuals need to stay home for the next three weeks under the new executive order. And 13 of the 24 hospitalization cases have had chronic conditions, so it is something that they need to take seriously. If they have one of those conditions, they need to protect their health and stay home. Is there a question on the phone?

Trevor: (37:45)
This is [Trevor 00:37:47] [crosstalk 00:37:44].

Governor Kristi Noem: (37:46)
Trevor, go ahead.

Trevor: (37:50)
Earlier today, during the Department of Health conference, we had … we were speaking about the two deaths that were confirmed today and officials declined to release the age and gender of the new deaths reported. We previously received this information in regards to earlier deaths. So I’m wondering if there’s been a change in policy vis-a-vis those releases, and if so, why?

Kim Malsam-Rysdon: (38:13)
Trevor, this is Kim Malsam-Rysdon. So we are not able to release certain demographic data if it can lead to the identification of a particular individual. In some cases, and you can think about this in terms of maybe where some people live, we’re able to release more information because it’s not as easily identifiable to do that. So we have to abide by the privacy protection that we have to give cases and individuals in our world. And so that’s where that distinction might be made. We see that more often in the case of people that are living in counties that don’t have large populations. And what happens is if we give out more demographic information, it’s easier to determine who that person is. So we need to protect their identities in that situation.

Kim Malsam-Rysdon: (39:02)
Determine who that person is. So we need to protect their identities in that situation.

Speaker 7: (39:05)
Is that regulation across all… I mean the governor herself said the three of the four deaths in the state have been in the age range covered by her executive order.

Kim Malsam-Rysdon: (39:17)
Sure. And so that’s an aggregation of those numbers and that’s why it’s not going to lead to an individual being identified.

Kristi Noem: (39:28)
And this is consistent.

Speaker 7: (39:28)
All right.

Kristi Noem: (39:28)
This is consistent for what every department of health guidelines, policies and requirements are according to patient privacy and what we are required to follow as a governmental entity dealing with a public health crisis. Let’s go to another question on the phone.

Morgan: (39:46)
Yeah. Hi, this is [crosstalk 00:39:47]-

Kristi Noem: (39:49)
We had a female that was talking. Morgan?

Morgan: (39:53)
Yep. That’s me. Hi. I was going to ask about the availability of ventilators in the State. It was reported Friday that we have 525 ventilators in the state. Where are they located? And I know that we have requests out to FEMA and private manufacturers for more to reach the 1300 ventilators you say we need here, but which manufacturers? Are we buying more? Do we have any federal funding to go towards the purchase of these ventilators? And how difficult is it to get them? And is there a lot of competition among other States to purchase them?

Kristi Noem: (40:22)
Okay. There was a lot of questions in there so I’m going to let Kim Malsam-Rysdon in our Department Of Health Secretary speak to where the ventilators are in the state today, if she can do that. And then obviously our healthcare systems are the ones who are in possession of those ventilators, not the state of South Dakota.

Kristi Noem: (40:39)
And then I’ll speak a little bit to the resources that we’re utilizing to secure the number that we believe we’ll require.

Kim Malsam-Rysdon: (40:46)
So again, we have about 525 ventilators in the state. We have about 50 of those that are in the state cash. And so we would deploy those as needed as this disease unfolds. The remainder are with hospitals across the state and we do have an inventory of those. We’ve seen some States where that’s been really, really important so that they can move equipment to where that’s needed.

Kim Malsam-Rysdon: (41:11)
And we’ll be talking with our healthcare partners across the state about how that might unfold in South Dakota. We are also working with our federal partners. Including IHS and the VA to determine what resources they might also have in this area, so you might see some numbers change based on that. In addition, as the governor is going to need to explain, we’re looking at all available options on ventilators or something that we’re actively seeking.

Kim Malsam-Rysdon: (41:36)
We do have federal funds to help pay for those, that type of equipment and anticipate getting more federal funds to help with that. We do know that they’re in short supply though, so we are having to really actively engage with suppliers both at the federal level and some supply chains that they have available as well as private vendors for those devices. We’re not limited to just ventilators though in terms of how we can help bridge this gap.

Kristi Noem: (42:09)
Yeah, and I think that is one of the things that we can speak to is that the plan as we follow the current mitigation efforts statewide requires we believe 1300 ventilators. What we’re doing today in Minnehaha Lincoln County could lower that number. We don’t know. If we keep more of the vulnerable population home, keep them healthy, there will be less ventilators that will be necessary in the state of South Dakota.

Kristi Noem: (42:37)
So while we are over-preparing and getting more supplies, equipment and hospital bed statewide than what we believe we will need, we’re still taking strong actions to continue to lower the number of people in the state that we believe that will need healthcare assistants going through this spread of the virus throughout the state of South Dakota. We are working all avenues. I spent hours on the phone this weekend securing and talking about the cost of ventilators.

Kristi Noem: (43:02)
Extremely expensive; 25 to 30,000 a piece. There is a shortage nationwide. I’ve been talking to other governors about if they’re peaking now, can we get and secure some of their ventilators when they don’t need them anymore. Those conversations are ongoing. We’re talking about alternatives. What other developments could be put into place that could help bridge this gap? FDA is waving some requirements. That’s streamlining the process for getting more tools in place to help take care of people that will require a ventilator.

Kristi Noem: (43:32)
And so those are all avenues that we’re pursuing, not just with private suppliers but also how we would secure more from the national level, how we would get more from other countries that are already finishing out their spread. And then what other alternatives could we have for insurance policies should we require that as well?

Kristi Noem: (43:48)
So just know that while we have a plan and we are over-preparing with 1300 ventilators is the goal that we will have and that we will meet and we will work to have on hand. We’re taking more measures to lower the number that we will possibly need to have and then using all avenues to secure those. So we made good progress and a lot of strong leads on getting those resources here. And before we get to a situation where we need that many ventilators, I’m confident we will have them on hand. Further questions on the phone?

Steven Groves: (44:21)
[inaudible 00:44:21] this is Steven Groves from the AP?

Kristi Noem: (44:23)
Yes. Steven, go ahead.

Steven Groves: (44:26)
You may have addressed this already, but with the change in the should to the shall, what are the consequences if a business or individual doesn’t follow that? Or is that a more strong recommendation?

Kristi Noem: (44:40)
This is in light of the fact that on Friday we unveiled a plan for how we’re going to protect people while the virus spreads across the state of South Dakota. And now that we have a plan that we have agreed to, the Department Of Health has agreed to and our three major healthcare systems have agreed to, we were changing the language in the executive order to shall giving clear direction to the people that state of South Dakota that they will follow this plan.

Kristi Noem: (45:05)
This is the plan for our state that everybody will be on board with. And we also Steven, in the executive order, change the date of effectiveness. So the date in this new executive order will go through May 31st and everybody needs to know that this is the direction they’re going through May 31st and that this is the plan that South Dakota will follow.

Steven Groves: (45:27)
What kind of consequence would there be for someone who didn’t follow that? Or a business that didn’t follow that?

Kristi Noem: (45:32)
Well, what I’ve consistently said and still adhere to is that I will use every authority that I have and take the appropriate action at the appropriate time. Now, I have all the faith in the world of the people of South Dakota. They have been absolute rock stars in working to protect their communities and their families. We have had some bad actors, absolutely. But we know that by and large, the efforts that we’ve undertaken as a state have worked. We have cut our peak rate in half from what we first thought it would be when we had our first virus positive case in the state of South Dakota.

Kristi Noem: (46:08)
Just by people taking personal responsibility, by doing and following the recommendations that I have given them, they’ve cut the peak infection rate in half. That is amazing to me. And I know that if I continue to give them the strong guidance of what they need to do, a plan for how we’re going to prepare and get through this together, that they will take it seriously and that they will do it. And we will get through this together. Kelly?

Kristi Noem: (46:43)
We are exploring that. That has come up before about the question in the room was on if we’re able to do a moratorium on evictions. And so there’s a lot of different areas that we’re looking at to see how we can brute bring relief to people. I think what folks should know and what those owners of apartment buildings and developments should know is that we do have resources, loan programs, grant programs that they can utilize to keep their businesses going and to keep their finances going so they can be flexible and work with families during this time.

Kristi Noem: (47:11)
So this is a question that we’ve been asked as far as what we can do as far as resources. We’ve stepped up and created programs to help and we’ll continue to look if that becomes a serious issue. For a lot of people in the state of South Dakota. Okay. Yes. Last question.

Speaker 9: (47:30)
Have you determined how much of the 2.2 trillion you’re going to get [inaudible 00:47:37]?

Kristi Noem: (47:38)
Yeah, the question was on how much of the federal dollars will flow into the state of South Dakota from the bills that were passed through Congress. We’re extremely grateful for the work of our congressional delegation on giving us some resources that we could utilize to get through this crisis situation we’re evaluating. We haven’t gotten guidance yet on how those dollars will come to the state of South Dakota. We expect to get that within a week to 10 days from the federal government on guidance on how those programs will work and how that revenue will flow into our state that we could use to cover some costs.

Kristi Noem: (48:13)
They said the money should start to arrive by the end of April. I don’t have any more information than that. I’m a little concerned because some of the language says that I can’t use any of the money to replace revenue loss, which is obviously how the state of South Dakota has been dramatically impacted.

Kristi Noem: (48:32)
We are a state of low taxes, low regulation. Our main funding source at the state level is sales tax. And every business has literally been shuttered just because of lack of economic activity and very few dollars are flowing into the state. So revenue loss is going to be a huge hurdle for us to overcome here in the future. And so I’ve been asking for some flexibility on how we could utilize some of those dollars to keep our very vital programs running. Again with that from the secretaries and the commissioner that spoke today, the information and the programs they referenced that are here to help the families of South Dakota will be available on the COVID.SD.gov website. And we will link to their pages so you can get more details, but please access them and we would sure appreciate you making sure that your friends and neighbors are aware of all the resources that are out there as well. So thank you so much. You have a great day.