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Vaccine rollout smooth so far for South Dakota, with long-term care residents up next

Moderna vaccine will bring state's total doses to more than 22,000

Sister Mary Thomas, Avera Health's senior vice president of mission, blesses a shipment of the Pfizer vaccine before it is administered Dec. 14 at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls. (Avera Health photo)

The highest priority group for the vaccine -- some 19,000 front-line COVID-19 health workers and long-term care facility staff -- are expected to receive their initial doses by the end of this week, said South Dakota Department of Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon in a Wednesday press conference.

Next up: Elderly long-term care residents, who are disproportionately vulnerable to COVID-19, which has ravaged the population of many of the state’s nursing homes.

State officials say they have received an extra 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, in addition to the 7,800 doses delivered last week, and are expecting a shipment of 5,100 doses of the Moderna vaccine next week. Additionally, the state has received 4,875 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be distributed to assisted-care and long-term care facilities through a federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens.

More than 8,300 doses of vaccine have been administered already, state officials said. The Moderna vaccine has been delivered to the state's major health care networks and smaller regional partners. The state's total dose allotment to date is 22,400, and more shipments are expected weekly, DOH officials said.

State officials on Wednesday asked South Dakotans to take steps to avoid furthering the spread of COVID-19 through upcoming holiday gatherings.


Their recommendations: Reduce travel, do virtual visits instead, carefully assess the risks of travel and visits, and completely in-person holiday gatherings if you’re sick with COVID-19 or have symptoms of the disease.

They also recommended people take advantage of the free, at-home saliva test for COVID-19 available on the state’s website: https://doh.sd.gov/COVID/Testing.aspx

“Even though we’re seeing decreasing case numbers since our peak in November, we’re asking people to remain vigilant … so that we do not see that rebound in cases in that week or two weeks after Christmas,” said Dr. Joshua Clayton, the state epidemiologist.

Updated figures from the South Dakota Department of Health on Wednesday increased the number of total COVID-19 cases this year to 96,040, but the active case count continued to fall, down to 7,314. That's a decrease of more than 56% from the active case high point from the month of 16,814 on Dec. 7. New cases numbered 531 on Wednesday.

Eight additional deaths were reported on Wednesday, bringing the state's death toll to 1,389 and 443 South Dakotans for the month of December.

In all, 87,337 individuals have recovered from the virus, as the state's recovery percentage has climbed above 90 percent for the first point of the pandemic this week. The previous high was 88.63% on July 22.

Jeremy Fugleberg is editor of The Vault, Forum Communications Co.'s home for Midwest history, mysteries, crime and culture. He is also a member of the company's Editorial Advisory Board.
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