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Sen. Thune meets with Avera officials to discuss COVID-19

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 10:14 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - South Dakota ‘s congressional leaders and hospital officials are continuing to meet and work together in the fight against the Coronavirus.

Senator John Thune met with Avera officials in Mitchell Thursday to discuss the pandemic to discuss Coronavirus testing, a vaccine, and telemedicine.

To get a better idea of the Coronavirus in South Dakota, Senator Thune met with those who face it every day.

Thune said, “This was an opportunity for me to hear from the people who are on the frontlines dealing with the healthcare challenges we face across South Dakota, more specifically COVID but also just the broader challenges of delivering healthcare in a rural area.”

On the trip, Senator Thune praised Avera’s leadership in telemedicine and says he wishes to see it continue after the pandemic.

“What I think we found out through the pandemic is just how valuable telemedicine really is, I think a lot of us knew it before but it was hard to prove it and now we’ve proven it,” Thune added.

Thune touched on the affordability of remote doctor’s visits and says call numbers have gone from in the hundreds to in the thousands during the pandemic, something that is echoed by Avera.

Regional President of Avera Queen of Peace Hospital Doug Ekeren said, “We have seen tremendous growth in telemedicine during the pandemic, and Avera has one of the most robust telemedicine systems in the world and we have seen exponential growth during this time.”

And while many praises were given during Thune’s time in Mitchell, there is always room for improvement.

“I think one of the things that we do have to have more of and get better at until we have a vaccine is testing. You cannot emphasize the importance of being able to identify, and then contact trace and quarantine those who have it and those who don’t,” said Thune.

Thune did mention that he is pushing for funding and the resources needed for mass testing to help assist schools and the economy open successfully and safely.

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