SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — One year ago today active COVID-19 cases in South Dakota were at 151. Today, active cases are much higher at 2,780.

While it may seem like this jump in cases is indicative of a COVID-19 surge, Avera Family Medicine Physician Dr. Chad Thury says that the transmissibility of Omicron and its variants can explain the number of cases.

“They seem to marginally spread a little faster each one as those variants go on, but the fortunate thing is they’re not looking like they’re increasing the rate of hospitalizations or producing more severe clinical outcomes which is the good thing,” Thury said.

In fact, while active cases are about 18 times higher today than a year ago, hospitalizations only account for 2.33% of current active cases. That’s compared to 17% in June of 2021.

“From a hospitalization standpoint we’re still seeing pretty low numbers without a big increase at all in hospitalizations,” Thury said. “The fortunate thing is we’re kind of seeing that throughout the country.”

Thury added that it’s difficult to get a good sense of where exactly South Dakota is with cases as many people are taking at-home tests that aren’t reported to the state. But a look at data provided in the South Dakota Department of Health’s weekly update shows that in the last seven days, the positivity rate is at 19.7%.

“That positivity rate does jump a little bit depending on the week,” Thury said.

In March, KELOLAND News spoke to Dr. David Basel with Avera Health who said that positivity rates under 10% are a good indication that under-testing is not happening in the state.

The best thing you can do right now, according to Thury, is to make sure your vaccinations are up to date. If you were a person that was vaccinated early in 2021 and haven’t been boosted, Thury suggests doing so to reduce the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, or death. If you’re looking to get a second booster, Thury suggests waiting until the fall to receive another booster to ensure your immunity is where it needs to be ahead of cold, flu, and COVID season.

Now that children as young as 6-months-old are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, Thury recommends parents add the COVID-19 vaccine to the number of immunizations children already receive.

“By the time you go through the two- or three-part series of the COVID shots, getting started now to get that immunity built up before the cold and flu season, and COVID season, picks up would really be important,” Thury said.

For parents of infants receiving their immunizations, Thury said that you don’t have to worry about the COVID-19 vaccination contradicting with any of the other needed shots.

“The vaccine, as it is with adults, is very safe and very effective. I would just encourage parents to immunize their kids for COVID and it just helps with, overall, being able to control the spread of COVID through our communities,” Thury said.

Vaccines for the 6-month to 5-year-old age range are on their way according to an Avera spokesperson. Parents should inquire with their primary care physician about setting up an appointment when it becomes available. 

Sanford Health said that they will have vaccines for young children available beginning on Friday, June 24. Appointments can be scheduled on My Sanford Chart or by calling your local clinic.

“The anticipation is over for this age group. We celebrate today as we reach this milestone where everyone 6 months and older now has the opportunity to receive a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine,” said Dr. Katie Larson, a pediatrician at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls. “The vaccine will continue to be the safest and most effective tool to fight this virus. As more variants of COVID-19 are inevitable, it’s important for families to take this opportunity to protect their kids.”