FIRST@4: 39 additional COVID-19 deaths; Impact of mask mandates on case totals; Vaccine distribution in South Dakota Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Take a look at the top stories of the day as of 4 p.m.

Thirty-nine new COVID-19 deaths were reported as the death toll hit 1,300 in South Dakota, according to Wednesday’s update from the state department of health.

New on Wednesday, the DOH is reporting deaths in two different categories — deaths among people with COVID-19 and deaths caused by COVID-19. On the state website, “deaths among people with COVID-19” is described by “reflects people who died with COVID-19, but COVID-19 may not have been the cause of death listed on the death certificate.”

There have been 354 deaths reported in December.

In just one month, the number of new coronavirus cases in South Dakota has gone down significantly. Some of the most dramatic changes are in areas with mask mandates.

SDSU Epidemiologist Bonny Specker has been tracking the numbers and says those four mandates appear to be making a difference.

“What is interesting is what happened with the seven-day running averages of new cases per day in the 10 counties with the most populous cities based on whether the largest city passed, or did not pass, a mask mandate before December 1st, a time that changes should be apparent by mid-December,” Specker said in an email.

Over the past 10 months, many of us have been hoping and praying for a Vaccine for COVID-19. Now that it’s here, healthcare workers are still praying, this time, that it can help shift the tide in this ongoing battle.

As the Pfizer Vaccine rolled into Avera Monday morning, so did a great deal of emotions for Vice President of Supply Chain Sara Henderson.

“It was just this sense of overwhelming sense of relief and a sense of hope that we are getting to the point where we can return to some sort of normal, or, at least, keep these people protected,” Henderson said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on many emotional moments over the course of this past year, but before medical staff opened the shipment, they took one more moment to gather together and pray.

South Dakota will receive 7,800 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and is expecting 14,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine next week. With the arrival of the vaccine in South Dakota, comes updates to how the DOH will be reporting the vaccinations progress across the state.

A new feature has been added to the Department of Health’s website to reflect both doses administered and persons administered, for the vaccinations that require two doses for full efficacy. This new feature will update daily to reflect new doses administered as well as the counties the doses were administered in.

According to South Dakota State Department of Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon, there will be enough doses to vaccinate the key frontline health care workers in the coming weeks.

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