PIERRE — South Dakota’s State Epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton says the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet.
“While we are seeing decreased cases due to vaccinations, we really want to emphasize that we are not all the way through the pandemic,” Clayton said during the Department of Health’s final news conference on the coronavirus Wednesday.
The state wants assurances that we won’t see a resurgence of the virus. Because it is a respiratory pathogen, there is increased risk of COVID-19 returning in the fall, Clayton said.
The state’s goal has and continues to be to get 70% of the population vaccinated.
“We need that to achieve the herd immunity level,” he said.
Clayton said he is confident that people in the state will “step up” to help the state reach that 70% vaccination level.
“We’ve heard a lot of different concerns and reasons why people are hesitant to get the vaccine and what it really comes down to is making sure that they have the available incredible information in front of them to be able to make that decision,” he said.
Asked to assess what the state did well and what they could have done better during the pandemic, Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said a huge bright spot was the state’s partnership with the healthcare community in South Dakota.
“They stepped up. We rolled up our sleeves together and did the best job we could in working together on behalf of the people across the state,” she said.
Also helpful was to embrace the mindset of “preparation, not panic,” she said.
“We didn’t want to overreact to situations, but yet we really wanted to make sure that people understood what we knew about COVID and about resources that people could do to stay safe,” Malsam-Rysdon said.
Clayton said state statistics show that the vast majority of individuals who are currently infected with COVID-19, as well as individuals hospitalized or those who have died, are people who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine.
He said from December through June 9, there have been 372 cases of infections in South Dakotans who had received the recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Of those cases, there were 53 people hospitalized and 11 who have died, Clayton said.
From Dec. 14 to June 9, there have been 32,960 cases, 1,907 hospitalizations and 764 deaths from COVID-19. From those totals, people who have received the vaccine represent 1.13% of new cases, 2.78% of hospitalizations and 1.44% of deaths.
“Let that sink in,” he said. “The folks who are in fact being infected now are preventable infections with vaccination.”
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