Officials share thoughts on herd immunity

PIERRE, S.D. (DRG News) – Monday’s update from the South Dakota Department of Health showed there are currently 154 active cases of COVID-19 in Hughes County– 116 of them being inmates or staff at the State Women’s Prison in Pierre.

About one-fourth of the inmates have tested positive, but state epidemiologist Dr. Josh Clayton says “herd immunity” isn’t likely to happen at the facility.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of it  from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected, not just those who are immune.

State Health Secretary Kim Malsom-Rysdon says establishment of herd immunity is typically associated with mass vaccinations.

Clayton says herd immunity isn’t easily achieved in large populations.

But, Clayton says, there are still a lot of unknowns with COVID-19.

A statement from the Department of Corrections last week (Sept. 17) said infected individuals were put into isolation and close contacts are quarantined. Inmates in Pierre are not allowed to go out for work release or community service projects and visitation and programming and contact with volunteers is suspended. Inmates do have access to their tablets for phone calls and messaging and each has been given two additional free phone calls per week. Video visitation is also continuing.