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Analysis: COVID-19 infections up among South Dakota’s K-12 children, down among college students

Analysis: COVID-19 infections up among South Dakota’s K-12 children, down among college students

Jonathan Ellis

| Sioux Falls Argus Leader

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COVID-19 cases among South Dakota’s K-12 students are up 35% compared with the same period last year, an Argus Leader analysis of the first three weeks of school has found. 

But that’s not surprising, because it mirrors the percentage increase throughout the entire state. Average new COVID-19 cases in the state are also up 35% from the same period last year. There are also more kids in school this year, after many opted to start last year from home. 

At the same time, new COVID-19 cases in the state’s colleges and universities were down 84% this year compared with the first three weeks of last year, despite all six of the state’s universities offering on-campus, in-person classes this school year, according to Board of Regents spokeswoman Janelle Toman.

South Dakota State University saw a large spike of cases at the start of the 2020-21 school year, prompting the Brookings City Council to pass a mask mandate and enforce business restrictions. But so far this year just 10 new cases have been reported among students or staff. Black Hills State University also reported 10. Those schools have had the most so far.

In total, 89 students and staff have tested positive in the state’s colleges through Aug. 28, the South Dakota Department of Health reported. Of those, 58 were students and 31 staff. Twenty-five have already recovered.

The university numbers include private schools and technical colleges.

The K-12 numbers also include public and private schools. Of the 433 total cases, 339 were among students and 94 staff. More than 20% have already recovered.

The vast majority of schools — 734 — had no active cases, compared with 134 that had one to two cases and 31 with three or more. 

The increase in cases both in schools and the general population could in part be explained by more active testing for coronavirus than what existed last year. In the past seven days, the state has reported an average of 78% more daily tests than during this time last year.

But hospitalized COVID-19 patients are evidence the virus is far more prevalent in August 2021 than last year. On Sept. 1, 2020, the South Dakota Department of Health reported that 78 people were in the hospital with COVID-19. Sept. 1, 2021, had 229 hospitalizations.

So far, there hasn’t been an increase in school-age children needing hospital care, despite rising case numbers. As of Thursday, the state had five active cases of children between the ages of 0-19 that had received hospital care. Those numbers are not out of the norm. For example, in April, 10 children 0-19 needed hospital care and there were nine in March.

Overall, the hospitalization rate for that age group in South Dakota has been a little more than six-tenths of a percent. Put another way, 99.4% of children who tested positive for COVID-19 did not need hospital care.

In contrast, 5% of those aged 50-59 needed hospital care.

The numbers suggest that for now, COVID-19 remains a disease that has a light touch with the young.

This content was originally published here.

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