By Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2020

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota health officials on Saturday reported 33 deaths related to COVID-19, and 618 new cases.

The number of deaths reported Saturday equaled Friday’s tally, bringing the total since March to 1,243, including about 300 so far in December.

Hospitalizations from COVID-19 were down 15 on Saturday, to 452. That marks the lowest number of hospitalizations since early November, when the state began seeing a surge of new cases and hospitalizations.

There were 1,291 new cases per 100,000 people in South Dakota over the past two weeks, which ranks fifth in the country for new cases per capita, according to figures compiled by The COVID Tracking Project. One in every 167 people in South Dakota tested positive in the past week.

The state’s prisons have seen particularly bad outbreaks, and another state inmate died of coronavirus complications, according to the Department of Corrections.

The Rapid City Journal reports the man was incarcerated at the Jameson Annex of the State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls. He’s the fifth state inmate to die of the virus.

The nation’s first COVID-19 vaccine will begin arriving in states Monday morning, U.S. officials said Saturday, after the government gave the final go-ahead to the shots needed to end the outbreak among Americans.

Health experts say that while vaccines are expected to be distributed soon, it will be challenging to distribute them in South Dakota, due to the state’s rural nature, the difficulty in storing the shots, and concerns that some people may be reluctant to be inoculated.

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