SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The number of people hospitalized in South Dakota due to COVID-19 reached an all-time high Friday, Sept. 11, as the Sanford International golf tournament began in Sioux Falls with a range of pandemic protections in place.

The South Dakota Department of Health reported 98 people are in the hospital due to COVID-19 on Friday, marking the highest daily total since the pandemic spread to the state in March. Still, hospitals remain well able to handle the number of cases, reporting COVID-19 cases were using only 4% of all hospital beds and 3% of intensive care unit beds.

Health officials reported another 283 people had been newly tested positive for COVID-19, while 224 people ill with the disease had newly recovered. There are 2,515 people who are known to currently have COVID-19. No new additional COVID-19 fatalities were reported Friday, and the death toll stands at 177.

Daily reporting indicates an August surge in cases, potentially powered by the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and the return to school of both university and K-12 students, may be subsiding. Daily active cases, which tripled over the month of August to about 3,000, are now down to about 2,500. Meanwhile, the number of newly recovered people has been level to higher than the number of people who have newly tested positive.

Declining cases a plus for pro golf tourney

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While many new additional COVID-19 cases have appeared in Minnehaha County, home to Sioux Falls, in recent weeks, the state Department of Health data shows a downward trend in new cases in the county.

That's a welcome trend for organizers of this week's Sanford International PGA Tour Champions golf tourney in Sioux Falls. The tournament, sponsored by Sioux Falls-based Sanford Health, is professional golf's first in the pandemic to welcome spectators.

A chilly, rainy Friday appeared to have depressed the number of attendees to the tournament's first day. Last year, about 74,000 people attended the weeklong series of events around the tournament, as well as the tourney itself.

Concerns remain about adequate testing in South Dakota. State, private, hospital and VA processed a total of 1,713 tests, the state Department of Health reported Friday, showing a positive test rate of just under 17%.

The state's daily positive testing rate has been over 10% since mid-August, making the state a "red zone" by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, which looks for positive test rates below 10% as a sign the state is testing enough. State officials have defended their testing program and have said they're looking to implement additional testing.

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