Coronavirus

South Dakota has yet to record any cases of the so-called UK variant of the COVID-19 virus, health officials said during a weekly media briefing Wednesday.

State epidemiologist Dr. Josh Clayton said only five states have reported the variant strain (SARS CoV-2 B.1.1.7), which has caused leaders in Great Britain to impose a national lockdown for the next several weeks. So far, the variant has been reported in Colorado, California, Florida, New York and Georgia.

“South Dakota continues to partner with the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and communicates with other states to quickly identify any mutation in (the virus),” he said.

“At this time, we are not concerned about it impacting vaccine effectiveness,” he added.

However, Clayton said the main concern with the new strain is that “it can be transmitted more quickly and more effectively to individuals, which could put a further strain on the U.S. health care system.”

In the same media briefing, Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said the COVID vaccinations continue to roll out in South Dakota. As of Wednesday, 29,879 doses had been administered in the state, breaking out to 15,888 Moderna doses and 13,991 Pfizer doses.

She said the state is currently receiving about 11,000 vaccine doses a week but that situation could change from week to week. She said the public would be notified when the vaccination process is accelerated.

The Department of Health (DOH) online portal added two new tools Wednesday to assist in public information on vaccines. One tool tells residents by county which health-care system(s) is handling their vaccination program, while the other tool offers an “estimated timeline of vaccine availability, depending on which priority group (A-E) they belong to in accordance to Phase 1 of South Dakota’s vaccination plan,” according to a DOH press release.

Malsam-Rysdon added that it remains extremely important for people to get tested for COVID-19 if they have symptoms or believe they have been exposed to someone who has been infected.

“(Testing) remains very, very important to our response, because again, it’s going to be a while before we get the whole population vaccinated,” she said.

South Dakota recorded 607 new COVID-19 infections and six new deaths in Wednesday’s update from the DOH.

The six deaths raised the state toll to 1,519. No new deaths were recorded in the Yankton area.

Locally, Yankton County recorded nine new infections and 15 new recoveries. Clay County recorded eight new infections.

Also in the area, both Charles Mix (14) and Union (11) counties recorded double-digit increases in new cases.

Here are the South Dakota statistics for Wednesday:

• Total Cases — 101,684 (419 confirmed, 188 probable);

• Active Cases — 6,387 (+353);

• Recoveries — 93,778 (+249);

• Hospitalizations — 5,805 ever hospitalized (+41); 264 currently hospitalized (-6);

• Testing — 4,602 new tests processed; 1,679 new individuals tested;

• Total Vaccinations — 29, 879 (+2,619).

In Nebraska, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) late Tuesday reported 1,448 new infections. There were also 10 new deaths related to COVID-19, raising the state toll to 1,692.

Here are other statistics posted by the DHHS:

• Total Cases — 171,003 (+1,448);

• Recoveries — 114,249 (no change)

• Hospitalizations — 5,358 ever hospitalized (+37); 515 currently hospitalized (-120;

• Testing — 13,885 new tests processed; 3,073 new individuals tested.

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For more information, visit the South Dakota Department of Health COVID-19 website — COVID.sd.gov — or call 800-997-2880; for Nebraska, visit http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx

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