‘It can spread more readily;’ Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe reacting to cases of COVID-19 California variant

KELOLAND.com Original

SISSETON, S.D. (KELO) — Confirmation of five cases of a COVID-19 variant in Roberts County has members of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe reminding people that the threat of the pandemic is not over. 

On Thursday, the South Dakota Department of Health announced two additional COVID-19 variants were confirmed in South Dakota.

Along with the 14 cases of the UK variant, which was first confirmed in Minnehaha County two weeks ago, one case of the South African variant was confirmed in Brookings County and five cases of the California variant were confirmed in Roberts County. Roberts County is part of the Lake Traverse Reservation, home to members of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe. 

After confirmation of the five COVID variants cases was announced, the tribe’s COVID-19 response team issued a statement calling on the public to “rigorously continue and practice all CDC recommended precautions now more than ever.” 

Dallas Owen, Enemy Swim Representative for the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribal council, said the confirmation of variant coronavirus cases raised extra questions. 

“It was a lot of shock,” Owen told KELOLAND News on Friday. “If this one is to be, by any sense, more dangerous, than that’s a huge cause for concern.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified the two strains of the California variant, known as B.1.427 and B.1.429, as a variant of concern. 

A variant of concern is listed as a variant “for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (increased hospitalizations or deaths), significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.” 

“It can spread more readily,” Owen said about the variant. “It can also have harsher symptoms.” 

Early studies on the California variant show it has a “20% increased transmissibility” and a “significant impact on neutralization by some, but not all, EUA therapeutics.” 

Owen pointed out the tribe closed its tribal offices for most of March. The tribe is also providing quarantine services for any members; all you have to do is call the SWO Covid-19 Hotline at (605) 698-8249.

Owen called on people to continue to monitor for symptoms and watch themselves more carefully. He said with the Easter holiday coming up, people may be gathering more and suggested future mass testing events are not out of the question.  

“With this coming, we have to start banding together. It’s a community effort. We need to make sure we’re going to help out the community,” Owen said. 

The big idea tribal leaders want people to take away from this is vigilance. 

“We’ve been at the forefront of this fight against COVID and we’ll continue to serve members and families as long as there’s a threat,” Owen said. “Get vaccinated when you get the chance. If you develop symptoms, request a test.” 

As of Friday, the five South Dakota counties and two North Dakota continues that make up part of the Lake Traverse Reservation are reporting 198 active cases. Roberts County was reporting 36 active cases, Codington County 80 active cases, Day County eight cases, Grant County 40 cases and Marshall County six cases. Richland County, N.D. has 25 active cases and Sargent County, N.D. has three.  

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