Brown County gains five COVID-19 cases

ABERDEEN, S.D. (By Elisa Sand and The Argus Leader) – As Brown County cases continue to increase, one Aberdeen resident asked about establishing a quarantine zone.

Jim Koehler appeared before the Aberdeen City Council Monday expressing concern about the recent increase in COVID-19 cases and asked if DemKota Ranch Beef has some obligation to the city. Koehler also asked if a quarantine site should be set up for DemKota employees who are testing positive. Koehler also suggested the use of the Aberdeen Civic Arena as a possible quarantine site.

As of Monday night, Aberdeen has 127 cases, of which 76 cases were from DemKota employees. Tuesday, Brown County’s COVID-19 cases were up five to 132. The number of cases among DemKota employees increased by one and now sits at 77, according to State Epidemiologist Josh Clayton.

Of the positive cases in Brown County, 63 have recovered and five people have received hospital care.

According to the Department of Health, 74 people are currently in the hospital statewide. County specific data on current hospitalizations is not available in the reports received from the hospitals. The historic hospitalization data is collected through Department of Health investigations.

Koehler also said he respects the beef plant and the workers there. He also said if a quarantine site is set up, DemKota should cover the cost of health care workers who staff the site.

Mayor Travis Schaunaman said he’s been in daily contact with the management team at DemKota.

“The reason the numbers are high is largely because of the increased testing,” he said. “Everyone can get a no questions asked test.”

Other residents in Aberdeen must be showing symptoms before a test is done.

Of those employees that have tested positive, Schaunaman said none have been hospitalized and all have had minor symptoms or no symptoms at all. Employees are not allowed at the facility until they’ve recovered, he said, and one-third of those employees have returned to work. Employees are also instructed to stay home until they get better if they test positive, he said, and following questions from two councilors who asked if those instructions were being followed, he said he would follow-up with the company to see if those instructions are being followed.

Koehler spoke to the commission during open forum, so no action was taken by the council on this matter.

As for any language barriers, Schaunaman said, for every language spoken at the plant, there’s is a direct supervisor who can speak that language. Schaunaman also noted praise given to DemKota by Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon on Monday.

Malsam-Rysdon applauded DemKota leadership for its response. The state health department was able to get a team into the building to do a walk-through and discuss the company’s plan to curb the spread immediately after the first cases appeared among employees, she said. The company checks employees’ temperature twice a day, has installed barriers between employees and provides personal protective equipment for employees, she said.

Statewide the number of cases increased by 49 and five more deaths were announced, all of whom were Minnehaha County residents.

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