There was a mistaken belief that the United States has largely defeated the COVID-19 virus. Rates of new and fatal cases had plunged over the past several weeks. It appeared that the national push to vaccinate all Americans had worked. However, the rate has flattened out. This has increased worry that the disease will surge back, particularly in states and counties with low vaccination rates. In some places, it already has.
The anxiety of the renewed spread of COVID-19 has been fueled by a new variant that appears to spread 50% faster than the dominant version in the United States for over a year. The so-called Delta variant accounts for more than half the new cases in America today. Because infections have started to surge, it means rising numbers of deaths are not far behind. The primary reason is that large percentages of the people in some states have not been vaccinated at all.
Many people forget how bad the COVID-19 pandemic was in America. The United States has had 34,051,643 confirmed cases, which is 18% of the global number, and 613,088 deaths from the disease, which is 15%. Vaccination is the primary reason the spread of the disease has slowed in America. Fifty-nine percent of the U.S. population 18 and older has been fully vaccinated. However, the figure varies widely by state, which is one reason the infection has started to spread quickly again. Vermont has 74% of its population fully vaccinated. The number in Mississippi is just 34%.
One way that epidemiologists and public health officials track the spread of the disease so they can measure heavily populated areas against sparsely populated ones is confirmed new cases over the past seven days per 100,000. This allows for an apples-to-apples comparison, adjusted for the population. The same is true of fatal cases.
South Dakota, once a major American hotspot, has a very small two cases per 100,000 people. New Hampshire has the same number. However, the figure by county in South Dakota is close to zero. Ziebach, Day, Douglas and Stanley Counties have only five cases per 100,000. This is despite a vaccination rate of only 19% in Ziebach and 31% in Douglas. It is hard to say why the numbers are low. Perhaps it is the low population density. The question is, with low vaccination rates, can South Dakota dodge the virus for long?