SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Three more South Dakotans have died due to COVID-19, raising the virus death toll in the state to 101, the state Department of Health reported Thursday, July 9. But South Dakota continues to see a downward trend in new cases even as the pandemic is surging in many states.

State health officials refuse to release basic information about COVID-19 fatalities, citing privacy concerns. But a Forum News Service day-over-day analysis of the department's COVID-19 data page shows that those who died were three women, two in their 60s, and one age 80 or older, and there was one new fatality each in Pennington, Todd and Yankton counties.

The Department of Health reported another 94 COVID-19 cases on Thursday, for a total of 7,336 known cases all-time in the state. Of those who have tested positive, 904 are considered active cases, up 40 from the previous day.

South Dakota appears to be experiencing a slight downward trend in new COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks, notable as many states around the nation are seeing a rapid rise in new cases, including in the wake of the Fourth of July holiday weekend and especially among younger people.

State health officials are keeping a close eye on the state's case trend, said Joshua Clayton, the state epidemiologist, on a conference call with health care organizations Thursday.

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"We are continuing to monitor that to make sure we're identifying any uptick in cases early," Clayton said.

There are 61 South Dakotans in the hospital due to COVID-19, up seven from the previous day. A total of 718 state residents have been hospitalized due to the illness caused by the coronavirus.

The burden on hospitals due to the virus remains low, according to data collected by the Department of Health. COVID-19 patients are using 4% of intensive care unit beds, 3% of hospital bed capacity and 6% of ventilators.

State, hospital and out-of-state private labs processed an additional 1,084 COVID-19 tests, totalling 878,310 since testing began earlier this year. The daily positive test rate of 8.7% is just a touch higher than the moving state average of 8.4%.

The state has placed a Hologic Panther testing system in Rapid City, to be used by Monument Health — a significant boost of testing for the western side of the state since it can run "hundreds" of tests a day, said Kim Malsam-Rysdon, secretary of the state Department of Health, in a Thursday media call.

The state is also setting up 20 Abbott ID NOW test systems, primarily in the Black Hills for use during the Sturgis motorcycle rally, which takes place in August. Those testing systems will then be distributed among the state's universities after the rally for use as the school year starts.

The state is working to provide mass testing for congregate living facilities, although it doesn't yet have testing data to report, Malsam-Rysdon said.

"We have worked with several facilities that provide drug and alcohol services throughout the state, as well as community support providers to people with disabilities," she said. "We are working on a larger schedule to help the rest of those facilities get on the schedule, but it's going well and we appreciate the partnership with those facilities."

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