South Dakota medical officials are concerned that some residents who are eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 are choosing not to and may prevent the state from reaching "herd immunity," the stage where enough people are immune from the coronavirus to end the pandemic, reduce hospitalization and deaths and allow life return to normal.
South Dakota fared better than most other states in terms of its tourism economy in 2020, but the state still saw significant losses, including a 13% decline in visitors and an 18% drop in visitor spending. But with COVID-19 vaccinations rising and a strong sense of wanderlust among travelers, the South Dakota tourism industry is hoping for a major revival in 2021.
Concerns over the spread of COVID-19 have led many South Dakotans to delay getting the dental care they need, raising the risk of periodontal diseases including tooth or bone loss but also heightening the chance of more serious health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.
A treatment that can reduce symptoms and hospitalizations and possibly prevent deaths due to COVID-19 is widely available in South Dakota and across the country, but health experts say the monoclonal antibody drugs are not being used as often as they could. South Dakota has done well in making the treatments available, but medical providers believe even more people could benefit from the treatment and they are taking steps to increase its use.
The COVID-19 vaccination process has gone well in South Dakota so far, but health officials and medical providers are about to open vaccinations to a new, larger group of people for whom it will be much harder to determine if they qualify for a shot. With only weeks to prepare, the state does not have a firm plan for how to identify, contact and verify the qualification status of people with two underlying medical conditions.
Only one bill has been filed so far regarding regulation of medical and recreational marijuana in South Dakota, both of which become legal on July 1, and lawmakers have a long way to go in creating a solid regulatory framework for legal weed. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs are not waiting for the Legislature or courts to act and are making plans to monetize marijuana as soon as it becomes legal.
One positive outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is that more Native Americans living on South Dakota Indian reservations have begun the process to purchase a home, though long-standing barriers remain on reservations to achieving the financial security and family stability that homeownership can provide.
In what has been a busy year due to deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, funeral home directors in South Dakota have had to work longer and harder, endure greater stress than usual and adapt to new ways of helping people grieve for loved-ones they have lost.
From bird-watching to boating, from hiking to hunting, more South Dakotans flocked to outdoor activities as a result of pandemic safety precautions that shut down many indoor activities. Many businesses and state wildlife conservation coffers saw a big financial benefit along the way.
With COVID-19 vaccine approval at hand, experts say the rural nature of South Dakota, the state's limited capability to store and distribute the vaccine and reluctance by some residents to take the vaccine could slow the delivery and reduce the effectiveness of the vaccines.
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