SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Nearly 90% of new coronavirus cases in South Dakota are being found east of the Missouri River.
For the past few weeks, no county in western South Dakota has been listed as having “substantial” community spread, according to the South Dakota Department of Health’s weekly updated community spread map. In comparison, the DOH lists 19 East River counties with “substantial” community spread.
When you look at the numbers of active coronavirus cases, persons still considered actively infected, counties in eastern South Dakota make up almost 90% of the total. As of April 8, there are 2,484 active cases in South Dakota and 2,199 of them (89%) are found in the 44 East River counties, while 284 active cases (11%) are in 22 West River counties.
Monument Health Dr. Shankar Kurra said Pennington County and most of western South Dakota has continued to see a decline in new coronavirus cases. Dr. Kurra noted Pennington County’s positivity rate (6.1%) is lower than statewide average (10.4%). He also said it’s important to look at what’s happening around South Dakota, pointing to a rise in cases in Minnesota, Iowa and part of Nebraska.
“I attribute the rise to the states and counties to the east of our state,” Dr. Kurra said. “If we believe people are traveling freely, it’ll also impact the western counties of South Dakota.”
The population difference between East River and West River is 70% and 30%. The most recent U.S. Census estimates put 611,473 people in eastern South Dakota and 259,165 in western South Dakota.
Dr. Kurra highlighted any rise in coronavirus cases come from human-to-human contact. He didn’t attribute any specific COVID-19 variant to any difference in case counts.
“West river is harder to get to and that’s a fact. A fact of geography,” Dr. Kurra said. “I’d like to say West River folks are doing better practice but we know human nature is similar. I don’t think we are any different than our brothers and sisters in the East side of the state.”
Both total COVID-19 cases and deaths reflect numbers closer to the 70-30 split in population with total cases split roughly 74-26% and deaths 71-29%.
The DOH is reporting 59,163 persons have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in western South Dakota counties. Those numbers do not include persons who have got vaccines from the federal pharmacy program, Indian Health Service or Veteran Affairs.
The DOH is estimating 48% of the state’s population 16 and over has received at least one dose.