KMR

South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon makes a few points during a news conference at the State Capitol. 

Wednesday, South Dakota Department of Health officials said they are preparing to move into vaccinating the 1d priority group for COVID-19 next week.

Group 1d includes:

Those who are at least age 65;

Those with two or more underlying health conditions;

Those in congregate settings, examples of which are shelters, prisons and detention centers;

Teachers and other school workers; and

Funeral workers.

Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said among the 1d population, the first prioritized group will be people aged 80 years and older, as well as people at high risk for severe illness.

“We’re making significant progress in our vaccination efforts,” she said Wednesday.

Malsam-Rysdon referenced Gov. Kristi Noem’s State of the State speech, during which Noem commended the health department for leading the country in vaccine distribution and administration. Malsam-Rysdon attributed that success to several factors: the Governor’s flexibility and instructions to create a plan for vaccination, overlapping priority group vaccination schedules to make sure doses aren’t wasted, and strong partnerships with the five major health care organizations in the state, who have “dedicated teams” working to plan and execute the vaccination program.

As of Wednesday, 47,952 COVID vaccine doses have been administered to 39,954 different people. Of the vaccines, 22,930 doses were from Moderna and 25,022 doses were from Pfizer.

So far, 7,998 people have received the full two-dose course of the Pfizer vaccine.

Next week’s vaccine allocation in the state is scheduled to be 11,100 doses, but allocations could soon be larger. At the federal level, officials are planning to increase states’ weekly allocations to make sure that no doses are being wasted. The new allocations will be based on the size of each state’s 65 and older population as well as considering how quickly each state is administering their allocations. Malsam-Rysdon said if and when that happens, the DOH and its vaccination partners across the state are prepared and ready to mobilize quickly.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton said according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. is reporting an average of 243,000 new cases per day and around 3,000 deaths per day.

By comparison, South Dakota is reporting an average of 400 new cases per day and an average of 100 deaths per day. Clayton said during the last week, the average has gone down “significantly” since the virus’ peak in South Dakota, during the week of Nov. 9-15. During the peak, the state saw an average of 1,400 new cases per day and 15 new deaths per day.

Despite dropping case numbers and vaccination efforts, Clayton still advised South Dakotans to continue taking the same mitigation measures as they have throughout the pandemic: social distancing, mask wearing, hand washing, and staying home when sick.

Malsam-Rysdon encouraged people to continue getting tested for COVID-19, and said there are free, saliva-based COVID tests available on the DOH website. To order a test, visit https://learn.vaulthealth.com/southdakota/.

The variant COVID strains first detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa have not been identified in South Dakota, Clayton said, although a case of the U.K. strain was found in neighboring Minnesota. These variants are reportedly more contagious than original coronavirus strains.

As of the Wednesday briefing, health officials reported 304 new confirmed cases and 148 new probable cases of COVID-19. The total number of confirmed cases is now 93,580 and the total number of probable cases is 10,615. Of the total cases, 4,762 are active infections. Currently, 253 people are hospitalized in South Dakota and 1,604 people have died due to COVID-19.

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