SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — For the first time, South Dakota has more than 300 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and over 6,000 active cases, data which Gov. Kristi Noem said is merely reflective of the amount of testing being completed in the state.

"Our record numbers that you're talking about are actually just reflective of the amount of testing that we're doing,” Noem said during a press conference in Sioux Falls on Tuesday, Oct. 13. "We have tripled the amount of testing that we’re doing in South Dakota, which is why you're seeing elevated positive cases.”

But the state's test positivity rate seems to conflict with Noem's take on the situation.

South Dakota has seen an 11.5% positivity rate in test results over the past week, and a 10.6% positivity rate for tests over the past two weeks, according to daily data reported by the South Dakota Department of Health.

Those are both higher than the state's all-time positive rate of 8.9%. That indicates a higher positivity rate in recent days compared to the overall pandemic — clear evidence testing isn't keeping up with the spread of the virus.

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Noem's claim also doesn't address the record number of new hospitalizations and new deaths reported due to COVID-19, data points that stand independent of testing ups and downs. The state just saw its deadliest two weeks ever during the pandemic, as state officials reported 65 deaths due to the virus out of a total death toll of 288. And current hospitalizations stand at 302, up 24 from Monday, and an all-time daily high.

Noem said that the state’s efforts have been and will continue to be focused on hospital capacity.

“The National Guard was heavily engaged in standing up and having available to us in a very short time period the capacity to add more beds should they be needed, and that’s not necessary at this time,” Noem said.

According to data on hospital capacity on the South Dakota Department of Health website, hospitals in the Sioux Empire region — roughly Brookings to Sioux Falls to North Sioux City — have 0.7% available hospital bed capacity for COVID-19 patients, with 19% of the intensive care unit beds being occupied by COVID-19 patients.

In the Black Hills region, hospitals have 25% available hospital capacity, with 15.9% of ICU beds being occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Hospitals in the Glacial Lakes region have 59.7% available hospital capacity, with 18.2% of intensive care unit beds being occupied by COVID-19 patients.

South Central Plains region hospitals have 41.7% available hospital bed capacity, with 34.6% of ICU beds being occupied by COVID-19 patients.

While the death toll remained at 288 on Tuesday, the state reported 414 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the state’s total case count up to 29,339. Of those positive cases, 23,007 have recovered and 6,044 remain active.

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