Cases stay low, on-campus COVID-19 testing remains available
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Cases stay low, on-campus COVID-19 testing remains available

There are currently six active cases of COVID-19 at USD as of Oct. 19, but COVID-19 testing is still available daily as the virus remains on campus.

USD had a peak of 25 cases in early September, but hasn’t seen the case total climb above 15 since Sept. 8. There are currently nine individuals in quarantine or isolation, with none on campus. All the cases and quarantines are self-reported.

“We’re testing probably 50 or so people a day who are getting voluntarily tested,” head of the USD COVID-19 Taskforce Kevin O’Kelley said. “We’re finding one or two of those a day are positive.”

While numbers remain lower than campus cases in 2020, USD still sits higher than its counterpart South Dakota State, which has one self-reported case of COVID-19 and six in quarantine, according to the school’s dashboard. 

In Clay County, there are 55 active cases of COVID-19, with one new case added Oct. 19 according to the South Dakota Department of Health website. The county also added 12 probable cases. South Dakota as a whole has 5,679 cases, with 562 cases added Oct. 19.

O’Kelley said that the Taskforce had made projections for 60, 65 and 70% immunity, and the campus levels have exceeded expectations.

“There are certain variables that we didn’t know,” O’Kelley said. “We didn’t know how many people are vaccinated and how many have been sick. But we did know some things. We know the Delta Variant is about twice as infectious as the previous variants, and we know exactly how many (reported) were sick last semester.”

O’Kelley said they used the information to model predictions based on different levels of immunity, and the USD community has exceeded expectations, with lower numbers than anticipated.

South Dakota is also seeing the population slowly receive more vaccinations. As of Oct 19, 66% of the state’s population has one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. In Clay County, 7,397 people have received at least one dose, with 5,808 people having two doses and 291 having a booster or third dose. The university doesn’t track the number of vaccinated students on campus. 

USD is offering free rapid COVID-19 testing in the Hoy Room, located next to the cafeteria in the Muenster University Center. Testing is offered from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Vaccines are available at Hy-Vee, Walmart and Sanford Health. 

“It’s a constant reminder, COVID is still here,” O’Kelley said. “We’re tired of it, I’m sick and tired of it. I want to go to the movies again. I’m glad we’re able to talk without masks. I like to see people’s faces; I’m so tired of telling students they have to go to quarantine for 10 days, and I do, twice, sometimes three times a day.”

O’Kelley said that he urges students to get vaccinated and follow Gov. Kristi Noem’s message to consider getting vaccinated.

“We’re pounding that drum,” O’Kelley said. “The governor urges us to consider getting vaccinated, and I echo her comments. I am going to continue to urge students and faculty to get vaccinated.”