After burning through part of the population in January, South Dakota’s COVID-19 pandemic returned to levels not seen since August.
August was the kicking-off point for the delta variant, which was still active when the omicron variant arrived in December. By the end of January, the pandemic was in rapid decline, after omicron took the state’s pandemic to heights not previously seen.
On Friday, the state was averaging 70 new positive coronavirus cases a day during the past seven days, the lowest since the start of August. To put that in perspective, following South Dakota’s first big wave in the fall of 2020, the state wasn’t averaging that few cases until May 2021.
In other words, what took months of decline in the first big wave took only a few weeks in the latest round.
A quarantine room contains two beds and basic amenities to keep guests who contract COVID-19 separated from the others at Union Gospel Mission on Wednesday, January 26, 2022 in Sioux Falls.
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Of the state’s population, 27% has tested positive for COVID-19, but the real number is likely much higher. Meanwhile, nearly 81% of the state’s eligible population has had at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While those two groups overlap, the numbers suggest that much of the state has developed some type of immunity to SARS-CoV-2.
The Dakotas, along with Wyoming and Nebraska, have had the fewest per-capita new COVID-19 cases in the country, according to the CDC. It’s yet another data point showing that COVID-19 outbreaks and remissions have followed regional patterns.
By Friday, there were 3,754 active COVID-19 cases in the state, the lowest since August. Occupied hospital beds by COVID-19 patients had fallen to 127, also the lowest since Aug. 23.
More: South Dakota Health Department reports fewest COVID-19 hospitalizations since August
The state recorded 25 new COVID-19 deaths over the past week, and South Dakota has been averaging about four deaths per day. That number should begin to drop.
The South Dakota Department of Health issued its latest mortality report, and it shows 2021 had the largest number of deaths in state history, behind only 2020. COVID-19 claimed 774 of the 9,173 South Dakotans who died in 2021. In 2020, COVID-19 accounted for 1,497 out of 9,857 total deaths.
In the nine years prior to COVID-19, the state averaged 7,659 deaths per year.
Absent some new coronavirus variant that is more virulent and can evade vaccination and prior immunity, the data suggest that deaths in 2022 will be closer to the average than they were in the last two years.
This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: South Dakota among the lowest states for new COVID-19 cases