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South Dakota Nursing Home Coronavirus Cases, Deaths Quadruple National Rates

In normal times, if seventeen residents of one nursing home died in less than a month from some preventable malady—botulism, food poisoning, whatever—we’d be freaking out. We’d have investigators combing the rooms, grilling the staff and remaining residents, and trying to figure out what caused the outbreak and what has to be done to prevent further deaths. But when coronavirus kills seventeen grannies and grampies in the Estelline Nursing and Care Center, our state’s leaders change the subject and adopt the ostrich as our new state bird.

The ragingly liberal (they must be—they’re reporting facts) Pierre Capital Journal points out that the deaths in Estelline are only a small part of South Dakota’s shocking statewide failure to protect a vulnerable elderly population from coronavirus. PCJ’s Abby Vargo reports that South Dakota’s rates of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths among nursing home residents are the worst in the country, at four times the national averages:

AARP Nursing home coronavirus deaths Dec 10 2010
AARP Public Policy Institute, Nursing Home Resident Deaths per 100 residents, by state, AARP Nursing Home Covid-19 Dashboard, updated 2020.12.10.
AARP Nursing Home coronvirus case rates through Dec 10 2020
AARP Public Policy Institute, Nursing Home Resident Confirmed Cases per 100 residents, by state, AARP Nursing Home Covid-19 Dashboard, updated 2020.12.10.

South Dakota’s nursing homes are among the most affected in the country. According to the Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard created by AARP, South Dakota leads the nation in COVID-19 nursing home deaths.

From Oct. 19 to Nov. 15, the AARP Public Policy Institute found that South Dakota’s nursing homes had:

  • 22.1 new COVID-19 cases per 100 residents, up from 5.5 in the previous four-week period
  • 4.82 COVID-19 deaths per 100 residents, up from 0.94
  • 18.6 new staff COVID-19 cases per 100 residents, up from 7.2
  • 77.7% of nursing homes without a 1-week supply of PPE, up from 23.2%
  • 60.6% of nursing homes with staffing shortages, up from 52.5% [Abby Wargo, “Report: S.D. Nursing Homes Have Highest COVID Death Rate in U.S.,” Pierre Capital Journal, updated 2020.12.14].

South Dakota AARP director Ben Gaikowski tells Wargo that part of the problem is our endemic shortage of nursing staff. Having more nurse assistants and other caregivers would certainly make it easier for workers to take their time, observe strict coronavirus prevention protocols, and stay home when they’ve been exposed to coronavirus. But Minnesota and Wyoming have comparably bad staffing shortages in their nursing homes and still have dramatically lower rates of nursing home coronavirus cases and deaths than South Dakota:

AARP Nursing Home Staffing Shortages Dec 2010
AARP Public Policy Institute, Staffing Shortages—percentage of nursing homes reporting shortages of nurses and/or aides, by state, AARP Nursing Home Covid-19 Dashboard, updated 2020.12.10.

But in South Dakota, we don’t trouble ourselves with such problems. We can’t take time out from hawking t-shirts to tourists to trouble ourselves over underpaid and overworked caregivers and old folks dying faster from our neglect.

New South Dakota State Bird: The Prairie Ostrich
New South Dakota State Bird: The Prairie Ostrich


  1. mike from iowa 2020-12-17

    Prairie Ostrich? That was a good one. From her attire, I’m guessing a hippier holdover from the Mod-70s?

  2. Dave 2020-12-17

    It may be just bad timing or perhaps bad taste… but there was a commercial for the Estelline Care Center on the radio the other day advertising for new residents… immediate openings!

  3. ds 2020-12-17

    Ok no problem If we have openings in elderly care facilities we can fill them up with the thousands of South Dakotans permanently disabled by the long-term complications of Covid-19. Thank you kristi for promoting that deadly anti-mask protection spin.

  4. Mark Anderson 2020-12-17

    Kristi keeping South Dakota number one.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-12-17

    Seriously, Dave? What radio station? I’d like to hear that ill-timed audio.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-12-17

    (Mike, see Noem’s Twitter feed: that’s her Xmas family photo outfit.)

  7. John 2020-12-17

    If the SD rep party renominates and re-elects the failed noem they should be banned as the death dealers they are.

  8. Francis Schaffer 2020-12-17

    I can hear her campaign ad now, ‘Because of my leadership payments from the Social Security Trust Fund have been greatly reduced extending solvency by 15 years’.

  9. Dave 2020-12-18

    the radio station was either KFBK or KXLG…

  10. Dave 2020-12-18

    arrg! KWAT is what i meant to type..

Comments are closed.