South Dakota state epidemiologist: ‘Not all the way through the pandemic’

KELOLAND.com Original

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Vaccine rollout continues and coronavirus case counts continue to drop, but South Dakota’s state epidemiologist wouldn’t say the COVID-19 pandemic is over yet. 

“We really want to emphasize we are not all the way through the pandemic,” Dr. Joshua Clayton said during the South Dakota Department of Health’s final COVID-19 media briefing. “There is increased risk of COVID-19, as it is a respiratory pathogen, in the fall.” 

Clayton said the state wants to avoid any resurgence of the virus and added the goal of getting 70% of the population vaccinated will continue. 

He said he was confident enough people would “step up” and get the vaccine but added it would be “a hill to climb.” 

“What it comes down to is making sure they have the reliable and credible information to make that decision,” Clayton said. “We want to make sure people know what the facts are.” 

State health officials tout transparency during the pandemic response 

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, government officials and health leaders in South Dakota have held hundreds of news conferences and media briefings about the novel coronavirus. 

When asked about what the state did well and what could have been better, both Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon and Clayton pointed to information flow as a success. 

“We really tried hard during this whole time to be very transparent,” Malsam-Rysdon said. 

She said people stepped up in South Dakota to become informed about COVID-19 and people took the data seriously. 

“They put that data into action and by-and-large followed the recommendations that were out there from the CDC,” said Malsam-Rysdon, who added government mandates will likely be proven not to be as effective as people thought early on in the pandemic. 

She highlighted the partnerships with health systems in South Dakota as a bright spot as well as a mindset of “preparation, not panic.” 

Clayton said making data accessible and transparent was something South Dakota did well. He noted the COVID-19 dashboard continues to be reviewed and revised. He said the DOH wanted people to see the data local to them and make their own decisions. 

Clayton said “hindsight is 20/20” but added it would have been helpful to get data accessible much quicker. 

“We are not done yet,” Clayton said. “We’re continuing to make sure data is accessible so people can make those decisions and we can get information out for people to get vaccinated.”

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