Coronavirus watch: South Dakota sees daily surge in case numbers during April

South Dakota, one of sparsest populated states in the country, has seen its number of COVID-19 cases increase by double-digit percentage points every day in April.

The Mount Rushmore State reported 180 new cases of the virus Wednesday, an 18 percentage point increase from the previous day, bringing its total number of cases to more than 1,000, according to data tracked by The Hill based on state data.

The national average is 194 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people and overall as a state, South Dakota is below that at about 132 cases per 100,000 people. 

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But Minnehaha County, home to the state's largest city — Sioux Falls — has more than 483 cases per 100,000 people, and a total of more than 1,000 cases according to state data.

Pork processor Smithfield Food in Sioux Falls has reported more than 500 employees as having tested positive for the virus. 

Gov. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemSouth Dakota AG issues statement on fatal crash, says 'I discovered the body' Authorities confirm South Dakota attorney general involved in fatal crash South Dakota governor defends Sturgis rallygoers: 'Exercised their personal freedom to attend' MORE (R) has encouraged residents to stay home and avoid large gatherings but has resisted issuing a hard stay-at-home order, a move that has raised eyebrows and drawn criticism from around the country. However, Noem on Wednesday remained optimistic that the state could handle the surge of cases.

"We have cut our peak, and that's a good thing, and that is encouraging to all of us," Noem said at a press conference, NBC News reported. "Our health care system can handle what's coming at us."

Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken (R) has requested that Noem issue a stay-at-home order for the city's metro area, but Noem dismissed his request Tuesday, saying: "I don't believe it's appropriate considering the data, the facts and the science that we have."