Simplified: Sioux Falls has seen a consistent decline in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, all while the number of people receiving vaccines is going up. But local doctors say it's too soon to give up masking, social distancing and hand washing.

Are we out of the woods yet?

Not entirely. South Dakota's coronavirus cases peaked in November, said Avera's Dr. David Basel, but he warns progress made in the months since then could be undone if people let their guard down too quickly.

Can I hug my vaccinated grandparent?

The risk is definitely lower than hugging your unvaccinated grandparent, but it's not that simple.

It's less risky if you're both wearing masks, haven't been around groups of people and practice good hygiene, Wilde said.

Is it safe to go to the store?

Generally, yes, but it depends on your own behaviors and the behaviors of other shoppers. Shopping while masked, staying 6 feet away from shoppers and using hand sanitizer is pretty low-risk, Basel said.

Without those measures, it gets riskier.

Is it safe to eat out at a restaurant?

If you're sensing a theme, you're right. It depends, doctors say.

Restaurants with well-spaced tables, good ventilation and regular mask use (when not eating, obviously) are less risky than more crowded, closely-packed spots, Basel said. It also depends how long you stay, Wilde added.

What do the doctors say about the vaccine?

Be patient. It'll take awhile to get vaccines distributed, but both doctors said when your name gets called, go.

"The guidance from the experts at the federal level has been to get vaccinated regardless of whether you've had Covid or not," Wilde said. "And I would encourage people to follow that advice."
"If we don't get 70 percent of the population vaccinated, then we're going to be right here next fall," Basel said. "This is the only path forward, in my opinion, to normalcy."