SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Case counts, death counts, positivity rates, testing rates, hospital capacity and vaccine counts — the metrics of COVID-19 data have become common terms throughout the pandemic.

As knowledge about the coronavirus pandemic evolved, so did the ways to measure the impact of the infectious disease. With nearly 50% of the South Dakota adult population (16 and older) fully vaccinated, what future does COVID-19 data hold? 

“We have used data very strategically with our COVID-19 response,” State epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton said. “The more people that we see vaccinated in some of these areas, the fewer cases of COVID-19 we are seeing as well.” 

Dr. Clayton said adding vaccine data to the state health department’s website has shown the positive side of COVID-19 data. He said it remains important for people to take into account the information available about the virus in the future. 

“The vaccine data will continue to be important through time,” Dr. Clayton said. “We are trying to reach at least that 70-percent level when we talk about herd immunity.” 

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner and board member for Pfizer, touted the metric 10 cases per 100,000 people on a daily basis for public health measuring purposes. On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Dr. Gottlieb said the risk of a bad COVID outcome is very low if you are vaccinated. 

Four counties listed as having ‘Substantial’ community spread 

In South Dakota, state health department incorporates case rates per 100,000 people in its community spread map.

The map shows a county-by-county breakdown of where new coronavirus cases are being reported on a per capita basis. It is updated weekly comprising data reported in the previous two weeks in a population-based formula. 

“It does take into account the total population for the state and/or for the county and it does at the number of cases per 100,000 individuals within a specific area,” Clayton said. “That data is used then to help us understand what level of community transmission we are still seeing in some of these areas.” 

The South Dakota Department of Health has begun updating data five-days a week instead of seven days a week. Tuesday’s data now includes data from both Saturday and Sunday.

This week’s community spread map shows only four counties (Minnehaha, Brown, Codington and Custer) listed as having “Substantial” community spread. Six counties have no community spread, while 20 counties are listed having “Moderate” community spread and 36 counties have “Minimal” community spread. 

“Individuals understand their community and they know the number of cases that may translate to levels of community spread,” Dr. Clayton said. “Ten cases in Minnehaha County is going to be different from ten cases in Hughes County because of the size difference there.” 

Clayton said the community impact map will be a “very helpful” tool in tracking COVID-19 in the future. He said knowing what the rate of cases are in the background will help people make decisions on what is best for them. 

“We know COVID-19 is going to be with us for some time,” Dr. Clayton said. “What levels of mitigation should you be taking? Can you go to the store without a mask? Will you feel a little more comfortable if you are fully vaccinated? There’s a lot of thought that goes into how data is being used especially in the context of vaccination.” 

Clayton said there’ll be more COVID-19 data to come as things change as more and more people get vaccinated.