All South Dakota residents ages 16 and older will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday.
“Given our efficient and orderly vaccination distribution efforts and increased allocation, we are delighted to open up Phase 2 starting Monday,” Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said in the press release issued Wednesday morning.
During a media briefing later in the morning, she added, “This is definitely the result of the hard work of so many people working to vaccinate people in the state.”
In a video posted on YouTube Wednesday morning, Gov. Kristi Noem first announced the vaccine expansion, citing Operation Warp Speed initiated under President Donald Trump to get vaccine production rolling and the subsequent vaccine rollout under President Joe Biden.
She added, “I also want to thank all of those who have been on the front line against this virus from day 1: our front-line medical workers, our state health care system, the great staff at the Department of Health (under Malsam-Rysdon) and you, for doing what is right and taking the necessary precautions and staying safe.”
The governor said she “invites (South Dakotans) to choose to get your free COVID-19 shot as soon as possible”
In a press release Wednesday, the South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) encouraged farmers to get a COVID-19 vaccination.
“This disease is no joke,” said SDFU President Doug Sombke. “Too many farm and ranch families have lost loved ones to COVID-19. Too many seats will be empty this Easter. I am grateful there is a vaccine. We all need to get vaccinated so we can stop the spread of this deadly disease.”
In terms of vaccinations, South Dakota continues to sit in a strong position nationally. According to the Department of Health website, 43% of South Dakotans in the Phase 1 groups have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines, while 28.4% have completed their two-dose regimens.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Josh Clayton pointed out during the media briefing that South Dakota’s percentage of those 65 and older who have received one dose of the vaccine is 83.6% compared to 72.1% for one-dose coverage nationally. Also, South Dakota’s one-dose coverage of all adults (18 and older) is 44.9% compared to 35.9% for the U.S.
Malsam-Rysdon said more than 95,000 South Dakotans have received vaccinations in the last two weeks.
“With the expected increase of allocation that we expect for April, we expect those numbers to continue to rise, and we’re very grateful for that,” she said. “… We do anticipate allocations will be increasing in April, and possibly quite substantively.”
The secretary said she also believes more vaccination outlets will come online, noting that the Federal Pharmacy Program is expected to grow from 17,000 pharmacies to 40,000 pharmacies in the coming weeks.
However, both Malsam-Rysdon and Clayton urged people to continue using caution, even if they have been vaccinated, as COVID numbers across the state have shown increases in recent weeks. Clayton noted that South Dakota averaged 198 new daily cases the past week, a 132% increase from the previous week.
Clayton said the rise in cases has not been tied to the recent state high school basketball tournaments.
He added, “We do want to stress that continued prevention against transmission of COVID-19 should include making sure you are physically distancing, wearing a mask when that’s not possible, avoiding crowds, (getting) vaccinated when it is your turn, washing your hands, practice cough etiquette and, of course, staying home when you’re sick.”
The recent uptick in COVID-19 infections was reflected in Wednesday’s update from the DOH. It showed South Dakota with 264 new infections and nine new active hospitalizations. Also, the number of active cases rose to 2,522, the first time it’s been above 2,500 since Feb. 4.
No new deaths were reported, which kept the state toll at 1,935.
Yankton County recorded 12 new infections, the third time in less than two weeks the county has reported a dozen new cases. One new recovery was reported, with the number of active cases rising to 79, the highest level since Jan. 21. The county also reported one new COVID-related hospitalization, its 150th during the pandemic and 17th for March.
Other area counties reporting new cases Wednesday included Charles Mix (+6), Clay (+2), Douglas (+1), Hutchinson (+4), Turner (+2) and Union (+8) counties in South Dakota, and Cedar (+1) and Knox (+2) counties in Nebraska.
The University of South Dakota saw its number of active cases increase to 12 (11 students, 1 staff), up four from Tuesday. The number in quarantine/isolation leapt to 23 (+5), including three on campus (+1).
Late Tuesday, Mount Marty University reported three active cases (2 students, 1 staff), up one from Monday.
Other South Dakota statistics for Wednesday from the DOH included:
• Total Cases — 117,759 (+264: 192 confirmed, 72 probable);
• Active Cases — 2,522 (+86);
• Recoveries — 113,302 (+178);
• Hospitalizations — 7,005 ever hospitalized (+20); 104 currently hospitalized (+9);
• Testing — 5,524 new tests processed; 979 new individuals tested;
• 7-Day Positivity Rate — 9.7% (-0.4%);
• Vaccinations — 410,502 total vaccinations (+6,321); 252,751 individuals vaccinated (+3,709).
In Nebraska, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reported 392 new infections, the state’s biggest one-day increase since March 10.
Three new deaths were reported, raising the state toll to 2,180. No deaths were reported in the Yankton area.
Nebraska is currently vaccinating those in Group 2A — which includes residents 50 years of age and older, as well as those working in critical industries of any age — in all counties.
Other statistics from the DHHS included:
• Total Cases — 209,346 (+392);
• Recoveries — 162,650 (+208);
• Hospitalizations — 6,339 ever hospitalized (+8); 116 currently hospitalized (+14);
• Testing — 11,071 new tests processed; 1,693 new individuals tested;
• Total Vaccinations — 868,691 (+23,460).
South Dakotans wishing to find out how to make an appointment to receive a vaccination can find that information at https://covid.sd.gov/vaccine/default.aspx. In the Yankton area, you can also call 1-877-At-Avera (282-8372). You can also call the state COVID information line at 1-800-997-2880.
In Nebraska, those wishing to register for a vaccination can sign up online at https://vaccinate.ne.gov/
To watch Noem’s video, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvCuqBx-y4c