South Dakota reports 47 virus deaths, anticipates vaccines

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota on Wednesday reported that 47 people had died from COVID-19, one of the highest single-day death tallies since the pandemic began.

The state has reported more than 50 deaths in a day only twice — both in November. The total number of deaths stands at 995. The rate of death from the virus has risen dramatically in recent weeks, and the state now has the nation's ninth-highest number of deaths per capita. There were 107.5 deaths per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins researchers.

But health officials did offer some good news. They are expecting to receive the first shipments of a COVID-19 vaccine in the next two weeks if it is authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration. Medical workers caring for COVID-19 patients will be the first to receive the vaccine, followed by people in elder care facilities.

The state is expecting 7,800 doses of a vaccine manufactured by Pfizer Inc. to arrive on Dec. 15. That will be enough to begin vaccinations for less than 1% of the state's roughly 885,000 people. But health officials said they expect to receive weekly shipments of vaccines until they are widely available, though that could take several months.

“We want to make sure our health care workers who are taking care of our COVID patients have the ability to get vaccinated,” Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said. “We need them to continue to be able to provide care to people until we are over the pandemic.”

Meanwhile, an additional 1,291 people tested positive for the virus, a jump from recent days when new cases had slowed. The state has seen a decrease in the average number of daily new cases reported in the last week, but still had the nation's third-highest number of cases per capita over the last two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. One in every 146 people tested positive in the past week.

The state's prisons have seen particularly bad outbreaks, and another state inmate died of coronavirus complications, according to the Department of Corrections.

The department said Tuesday said the man was incarcerated at the Jameson Annex of the State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. He's the fourth state inmate to die of the virus.

A total of 2,159 people incarcerated in state prisons have tested positive for the coronavirus, though officials say only 76 of those cases are currently active.

Officials have not provided any other details about the man's death.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health relaxed its guidance on how long people need to quarantine if they are exposed to someone with the coronavirus. The new guidelines follow an expected update on quarantine length from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State epidemiologist Josh Clayton said that people who are exposed to the virus but don't have symptoms need to quarantine for only seven days if they test negative at least five days after exposure. He also said people who don't develop symptoms can end their quarantine after 10 days without getting tested.

___

This story has been corrected to note the inmate was held at the Jameson Annex of the State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, not Mike Durfee State Prison in Springfield.