Shown is a 3D illustration of the virus that creates COVID-19.

In March, we at the Capital Journal began tracking the number of COVID-19 cases across Hughes and Stanley counties, the state of South Dakota and the entire U.S.

According to the South Dakota Department of Health, since March, 42 infections have been confirmed in Hughes County. Further examination of the data show that 22 of these cases — therefore, more than half — have been identified since June 12.

That means more COVID-19 cases have been found in Hughes County during the last two weeks than had been confirmed during the previous 14 weeks, or since approximately March 10 when Gov. Kristi Noem called her first news conference to announce the first infections in the state.

The data also allow for a direct comparison between the trend line for Hughes County and the one for the entire state. On June 12, South Dakota was averaging 66 new COVID-19 cases per day, a number that declined to 52 per day by June 25.

Conversely, on June 12, Hughes County was only seeing an average of one new COVID case each day. By June 25, the number grew to an average of three per day.

Therefore, at least for the last two weeks, Hughes County and the state of South Dakota are going in opposite directions in the spread of COVID-19.

In terms of pure numbers, the total number of coronavirus infections throughout South Dakota as of Friday was listed at 6,535. However, only 795 of these are listed as active, while 88 people have died of the virus.

These numbers fall far short of the 265,000 infections, along with at least 1,000 deaths, Noem and Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon feared in April.

Although South Dakota’s infection rate seems to have leveled off, this is not the case in several states across the nation. On Friday, Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci of President Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Task Force discussed the surge of COVID-19 cases in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California.

“If we want to end this outbreak, really end it, and then hopefully when a vaccine comes and puts the nail in the coffin, we’ve got to realize that we are part of the process,” Fauci said.

Birx urged the elderly population, known to be more susceptible to the virus, to make sure they are sheltering as much as possible.

“Use your grandchildren to go and do your shopping,” Birx advised these folks.

Fauci has been director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, with much of his work through the years dealing with HIV/AIDS.

“There is no other infectious disease that goes from 40% of the people having no symptoms, to some having mild symptoms, to some having severe, some requiring staying at home for weeks, some going to the hospital, some getting intensive care, some getting intubated, some getting ventilated, and some dying,” Fauci said of the unique challenges COVID-19 presents.

State Health officials advise all South Dakotans to:

Wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Cover one’s coughs and sneezes with a tissue.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Refrain from touching one’s eyes, nose and mouth.

Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects.

Individuals at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness, such as older adults and people who have chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease, should take actions to reduce their risk of exposure.

Call a health care provider immediately upon developing symptoms.

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