SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Community spread of COVID-19 in South Dakota continues as vaccinations in the state slow. The South Dakota Department of Health (DOH) recorded only 656 new first/single dose vaccinations from July 24 to 31, and only 290 people age 12 years and older completed vaccination series. This is down from 871 new first/single doses and 2,887 completed series one month prior in the week of June 26 to July 3.
Currently 21 of the state’s 66 counties are categorized by the CDC as having a high rate of community spread. 21 are also categorized as having low community spread, while 15 have moderate spread and 9 have substantial spread.
According to the CDC, 47% of South Dakotans as a whole are currently vaccinated, but what does this data look like on the individual county level?
In terms of total vaccination rates per county, Minnehaha County leads the pack with 188,028 total doses administered, according to the DOH. On the bottom end of the DOH scale is Mellette County, with 93 total vaccinations reported. An important clarification for this data is that in 35 of South Dakota’s 66 counties (including Mellette), Indian Health Services (IHS) is also administering vaccines, and these doses are not reported to or recorded by the DOH.
According to data from the federal IHS, 127,630 doses of COVID-19 vaccinations have been distributed to the ‘Great Plains’ area comprising North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. Of these, 93,517 have been administered.
When looking at total persons vaccinated in each county, the map looks very similar to the one above, with Minnehaha County (the most populous in the state) recording the most vaccinations at 99,518 persons vaccinated and Mellette County (the state’s 10th least populous county) coming in last with 51 persons vaccinated. As with the map above, the lack of IHS vaccination data should be considered.
In South Dakota, the differences between vaccination rates in the counties become more apparent when looking at the percentage of each county’s population that has been vaccinated. According to DOH data, the counties with the highest and lowest percentages are the neighboring Jones and Mellette Counties with 77.26% and 2.41% respectively.
These stats however are likely skewed by the fact that each lacks the number of vaccinations handled by IHS, which is active in each of the two counties. While Jones County (the least populous in the state) has a high vaccination rate, Mellette County (comprised in large part by Rosebud Off-Reservation Trust Land) may have a much higher vaccination rate than the DOH reported 2.41% due to vaccinations administered by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.
While data for counties served by both the DOH and IHS may be unreliable, information can still be learned from looking at the counties where the vaccine is administered only by the DOH. Looking at only these counties, the highest and lowest rates of vaccination are in Kingsbury (57.1%) and Harding (12.16%) Counties.
Harding County is the 3rd least populous county in the state, but as already noted, the least populous county (Jones) has managed at least a 77.26% vaccination rate, indicating that county population is not the reason for Harding County’s low rate. Kingsbury County meanwhile is the 31st least populous county in the state and is surrounded by several other counties that fall on the higher end of the vaccination rate scale.
In Deuel County, where community spread is high and the county has only a 38.65% vaccination rate, a COVID-19 outbreak has been reported at the Good Samaritan Society senior living facility where all residents and staff are fully vaccinated.
Jon Berg with Sanford Health told KELOLAND News that six residents are currently quarantined with a positive result, and confirmed that two residents who had tested positive have died.
This comes as the country sees an enhanced push for continued vaccinations as cases rise once again with both Democrats and Republicans, in some cases, joining the call.
Meanwhile, the US has finally pushed past President Joe Biden’s goal of getting at least one COVID-19 shot into the arms of 70% of American adults. This goal comes almost a month late, originally targeted for completion by July 4.