Aw, jeez. South Dakota has COVID-19?

It’s cutting close to home now. South Dakota has reported FIVE putative cases of COVID-19 with one death scattered across the state, among people who had no contact with each other.

It’s entirely possible that this is a case of paranoia and misdiagnosis, since adequate testing kits have not been available, despite the fact that Trump officials keep saying it is contained. We can’t know. That’s a big part of the problem, that when science denialists are running the government they interfere with getting good information and allowing us to manage a disease effectively.

Here’s Richard Lenski’s take on the situation.

The news just came out that South Dakota — South Dakota! — has 5 presumptive cases of SARS-CoV-2 infections, including 1 death. South Dakota has lovely people and places, but it’s not exactly the center of the universe, or even of the midwest. It has ~885,000 people in total … roughly 0.3% of the US population. So a simple extrapolation to ~330 million people would imply something like 1,800 infections over the entire USA.

There’s good news and bad news. Good news: there weren’t 5 cases reported in North Dakota, which has an even lower proportion of the US population.

All the rest is bad news. We’re assuming all potential infections have been tested and discovered. We’re also looking in the rear-view mirror, time-wise. In most cases, it takes a few weeks for an infection to lead to death (when it does, which fortunately is not usually the case). Maybe a week or so to develop symptoms that would lead to someone being tested. So let’s call it a week. Well, this virus typically doubles in a week or so. So 1,800 infections a week ago (ones that have become symptomatic today) implies ~3,600 infections at present in the USA as a whole.

It’s personally worrisome, because Morris, where I live, is way out on the western edge of Minnesota, physically closer to South Dakota than we are to Minneapolis. Isolated rural communities aren’t supposed to be hotspots for pandemics, don’t you know — we leave that to the big city folks. Yet here we are, where we might have to deal with this at home.

We’ve received some concerned messages from the university administration, too. We’re supposed to develop a plan for how we’d complete lab courses if we go on lockdown, which isn’t exactly reassuring. I’ve been thinking about it, and have some less-than-satisfactory ideas about how I could wrap up the genetics course, and we’re supposed to have a meeting to discuss biology’s response tomorrow.

Our goal has to be to slow the spread of the disease to prevent medical services from being overwhelmed. Nobody is panicking — I’m already seeing conservatives mocking any response as panic — but taking necessary steps so that we don’t reach a situation that is unmanageable.

We already have examples we should be learning from, in China, in South Korea, in Italy. This rather cluttered infographic summarizes the lessons from Italy. It’s like a tsunami.

There’s a lot of medical jargon in that — I hope my local clinic is paying attention.


  1. says

    For comparison
    I work at university in Poland (population of California, 3/4th of its size),in a city with population 2.2 million.
    22 confirmed cases in Poland so far, 1 in my city.
    All students classes are suspended till April 14, where it possible they will be continued online, everyone who can is advised to work from home as much as possible, most administration got time off. For the programs like grant application everyone was informed to send pdf’s of all documents and only after the final version with all paperwork is ready to come in.

    Even students ID (they give a lot of discounts and are suppsed to be renewed after passing each semester) were automatically prolonged to the end of academic year country-wide to remove one more reason for students to go to the university.
    All schools and preschools are closed, all of the mass events are cancelled or postponed, cinemas are allowed to operate for now.
    We have a Trumpesque government at the moment but with public healthcare we have enough health institutions in place to give recommendations and push for them.

  2. raven says

    I’ve been out and about the last few days, more than usual.
    .1. The grocery stores were more crowded than usual and doing a good business.
    Lots of people are stocking up on food and essential staples for a lockdown.
    .2. The coffee houses, lunch places, and other gathering spots were way below normal levels of people.
    People are already abandoning public spaces.

    It’s quite clear from numerous lines of evidence that there are thousands of cases of Covid-19 in the USA.
    The vast majority of them are undiagnosed, mostly due to the CDC dropping the ball on testing.

    It’s no secret the US CDC dropped the ball on Covid-19 big time.
    I’ve yet to see any evidence that they are getting anything together to fight this virus outbreak.
    Right now, we just have to assume the CDC will be missing in action for the whole pandemic.

  3. wzrd1 says

    If the bare modicum of control that is barely present is lost, it would be trivial to see our sparse, few hospitals filled to overflowing. Especially given for profit enterprises that have bought entire hospital systems, forcing competing nonprofit hospitals to cut back to keep expenses down.

    Sounds like things would be utterly out of control and the death toll would be insanely high? Not quite yet. PHS and the military also have contingency plan for pop up tent hospitals that are quite immense affairs.
    Yeah, I know, tents? Yes, tents. GP large and some larger model tents that have liners and floors, along with filtered heated and air conditioned air and the capability for either positive pressure or negative pressure, depending upon the specific environmental threats (nuclear, biological or chemical or simply mass pathogen illnesses) and personnel to keep those company. *
    So, there are contingencies, which could still become strained, but where additional resources could be federalized and supplies that include durable medical equipment are warehoused all over the nation.
    It’d be fugly, but not desperate.

    *I’ve trained with PHS/military joint teams that variously are dedicated for “The Big One” in California to a massive epidemic. They train alongside our military as a contingency for if their civilian counterparts are inundated and incapable of handling a large scale emergency.

  4. Jazzlet says

    But will they be allowed to deploy? With the administration limiting testing, and declaring that discussions about Covid-19 policy are to be classified, they’re hardly likely to deploy any solution that tacitly admits you do have epidemic Covid-19

  5. davidc1 says

    Over here in GB someone has died around thirty miles from where i live ,don’t know if i should be worried or not .

  6. says

    The “rural areas are safe from epidemics” idea hasn’t been grounded in reality for quite some time now.

    The local Walmart — where did their daily truckload of cheap substandard merchandise from? Who took the goods off the truck, and how many of their coworkers have those employees then been in contact with? How many people have been in and out of the store since then, and what do they do when they aren’t out shopping?

    Feel smug because you don’t go to Walmart? Your local grocery store and convenience stores all stock products from Nabisco, Frito-Lay, Hershey, etc. etc. etc. Those companies not only send in fresh stock, but often send in merchandisers to make sure the products are lined up nicely and presented according to contract. Where did the merchandisers come from? Who did they talk to while they were in the store? How long were they in the store?

    There’s a McDonalds, a Perkins, a Subway, a Taco Bell off on the edge of town near the highway. The food they serve is restocked by delivery trucks every so often, with goods supplied by the chain. Where did the driver come from? Who else touched those goods before they were even on the truck? How long was the driver talking with the staff? Did they stop for a meal while they were there?

    Heck, your small town in the middle of nowhere has a local gas station — even if that gas station doesn’t have restockers and merchandisers coming in, people driving through have been stopping there all along. How long was it between when the last one touched the pump handle and when you did?

    It’s more realistic to say “rural areas have fewer treatment options for epidemics” instead.

  7. says

    well, we also have some bishops claiming coronavirus is a punishment for gayness.
    An hour later Vatican confirmed first case :D

    Also, catholic church in Poland decided to increase the number of Masses every day, so churches will be less crowded
    no comments on that, just information

  8. wereatheist says

    catholic church in Poland decided to increase the number of Masses every day, so churches will be less crowded

    This means seven instead of five Masses a day?

  9. blf says

    More religious silliness about Covid-19 (and contagion in general), In era of coronavirus, Greek church says Holy Communion will carry on:

    Greece’s Orthodox Church said that Holy Communion, the partaking of wine soaked in bread from the same chalice for atonement from sins, would continue despite the coronavirus outbreak.

    Debate has raged in deeply religious Greece on whether it would be prudent for the Church to continue the ritual, where worshippers sip from the same spoon.

    The Greek Orthodox Church attempted to put a stop to the chatter on Monday: This cannot be the cause of the spread of illness, the Holy Synod, the ruling body of the Church, said in a statement.

    Although it didn’t elaborate, senior members of the Church have told Greek media Holy Communion, representing the blood and body of Christ, was without blemish. Whoever attends Holy Communion is approaching God, who has the power to heal, Metropolitan Seraphim told Greece’s Alpha radio.


    As per other sources (references omitted), the people most likely attend and partake are the elderly and frail, essentially precisely the people who seem to be most vulnerable. I assume the Greek Orthodoxes will twist their arms (which is not necessarily a figurative expression) to ensure their wills name teh church as the chief benefactors. How convenient.