Malsam-Rysdon and Dr. Clayton

South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon and State Epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton give a presentation to the Senate Health and Human Services committee on Jan. 20.

South Dakota ranks third in the nation for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, according to State Epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton.

During the regular Wednesday news conference, Clayton said the state is the third-highest in the nation when it comes to administering one-and two-dose vaccination courses.

And whereas the state was reporting some of the highest case rates per 100,000 people in the country during November and December, South Dakota is now the 39th-highest state for cases per 100K for the last seven days. The United States average is, at the moment, 66.8 cases per 100K people, while South Dakota’s is 38.4 per 100K.

Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said the department is making “significant progress” getting shots in arms. She reminded the public that the current vaccination priority group is a “very limited” portion of the 1D group — vaccination teams are focusing on vaccinating those 80 years and older; dialysis, post-transplant, and cancer patients; and residents in congregate settings before they move on to the rest of the group. Malsam-Rysdon said the group will continue to receive vaccinations through next week.

The 1D group also comprises people aged 65 and older, residents in independent living facilities and group homes, people with two or more underlying medical conditions, teachers and other school staff, and funeral service workers. The entire 1D group is the largest of the priority groups in phase one with around 265,000 people included.

As of Friday, 69,104 doses of COVID vaccine had been distributed in South Dakota, according to the DOH. Of those, 34,577 vaccines were produced by Moderna and 34,527 were produced by Pfizer. There are 54,617 people in the state that have been administered a vaccine. For the Moderna vaccine, 28,847 people had received one dose and 2,865 have completed the series. For the Pfizer vaccine, 11,283 people had received one dose and 11,622 people had completed the series.

In Hughes County, 1,329 doses had been administered to 1,167 people. In Stanley County, 182 doses had been administered among 186 people as of Friday.

Clayton said no one has reported any severe reactions to the vaccine thus far, and he invited anyone experiencing adverse reactions to report those. Local pain and swelling at the injection site accounts for the majority of side effects reported so far.

Two people who received a COVID vaccination have died within 24 hours of the initial shot, but those deaths were not linked to the COVID vaccine, according to Clayton. One of those people was not infected with COVID at all, while the other had received the vaccine after they had recovered from the virus.

Although South Dakota’s active case numbers are relatively low compared to those of recent months, with a national resurgence in cases, along with the emergence of the United Kingdom COVID strain in neighboring states, Clayton said it is important people continue to take the same precautions they have been for the entirety of the pandemic.

The U.K. strain, which has a higher rate of transmission, is predicted to be the dominant variant of the virus in the country by March. To combat this, more people will need to get vaccinated as well as tested. Testing numbers have declined as well as positivity rates.

“The higher rate of transmission will likely lead to more cases and increase the need for clinical care and exacerbate the burden on the health care system,” Clayton said.

As of Friday, 247 new confirmed cases and 72 new probable cases were reported to the DOH. That brings the total number of confirmed cases to 95,473 and the total number of probable cases to 11,243. There are 4,090 active cases in the state, 177 people are currently hospitalized, and 1,684 people have died due to COVID.

In Hughes County on Friday, there were 103 active cases and 31 people have died due to COVID. In Stanley County, there were 14 active cases and two deaths.

Malsam-Rysdon and Clayton both gave presentations to the House and Senate Health and Human Services committees and testified in the Senate HHS Committee in support of Senate Bill 3, which repeals the sunset clause put into place during the emergency session regarding contagious disease control and enforcement and maintains the health department’s authority to issue public health intervention orders for people with COVID who do not comply with mitigation measures.

“I think we were all very hopeful that that would be effective and really meet the needs of people in our state. Unfortunately, what we know about COVID at this point is that it is not going away, and we are here to see a repeal of that sunset clause to maintain the authority that we have today,” Malsam-Rysdon told the committee.

Of the more than 100,000 cases reported in the state, Malsam-Rysdon said so far, there have only been 10 cases of non-compliance to the point where the health department needed to issue a public health intervention order. She said there haven’t been many instances of this because many people “do the right thing” when it comes to COVID mitigation measures.

“We work really, really hard to help them do the right thing. So a lot of good work...happens before we get to the point of even considering one of these orders,” Malsam-Rysdon said.

She said judicial enforcement of COVID regulations is important to protect public health. In all 10 cases of intervention orders, judicial enforcement has not yet been necessary.

“This isn’t done as a punitive thing...it’s used in the most extreme cases where we have evidence that a person has COVID-19, is actively infectious, and is not isolating and is putting other people at risk,” Malsam-Rysdon said.

All of the senators on the committee except for Sen. Erin Tobin, R-Winner, voted for the bill to pass into the Senate. Tobin cited the 1.7% fatality rate of COVID cases as a reason to allow COVID to “fall off the list” and described the request as government overreach. Malsam-Rysdon disagreed and said the reason the mortality rate is so low is because so many people have been infected in the first place, and that COVID is still a very serious disease that poses a large public health risk.

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