SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The first South Dakota case of the delta variant of COVID-19 has been confirmed, the state Department of Health reported Wednesday, June 30.

The variant was discovered in a case in Edmunds County and verified by an out-of-state laboratory. But it's safe to assume there are other cases across the state that have yet to be discovered or confirmed, state health officials said.

The discovery of the delta variant in South Dakota adds urgency to calls for state residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The delta variant is more easily spread from person-to-person, reduces the effectiveness of existing treatments and reduces the protection of the COVID-19 vaccine.

But studies show that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are powerful weapons to fight off this emerging variant, although research continues on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine's efficacy against the delta variant.

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State health officials have said they want to get at least 70% of eligible South Dakotans vaccinated. But the vaccination rate in the state has stalled in recent weeks. As of Wednesday, about 57% of those age 12 and older have at least an initial vaccine shot, according to the state Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard.

“We are closely following this development and would like to reiterate, to all South Dakotans, the importance of getting tested and vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus,” said Kim Malsam-Rysdon, Secretary of Health, in a news release. “With easier access to the vaccine and testing, it has never been easier to protect yourself, your family and our communities.”

The delta variant is the more commonly known moniker for the B.1.617.2 variant, which has swept around the globe, quickly becoming the dominant virus variant in the pandemic.

It was first detected in the United States in March and state and federal officials have been monitoring for its emergence among states. North Dakota announced last week it had discovered its first known case of the virus.

The timing of the arrival of the delta variant in South Dakota could give residents a false sense of security. The number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have cratered in recent months, thanks to the state's original surge of vaccinations.

But not all areas of the state have strong vaccination rates, meaning those with a more lightly vaccinated population could potentially face a localized surge in COVID-19 delta variant cases.

“While COVID-19 case counts remain at an all-time low since the beginning of the pandemic, virus variants remain a threat diminished by increased vaccinations,” said Malsam-Rysdon.