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Spike in COVID cases causing concern for local health systems

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 5:39 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - As COVID case numbers continue to rise in South Dakota, medical experts are sounding the alarm about what this could mean for local health systems.

That problematic Delta variant is complicating the fight against COVID-19, it’s more contagious among the unvaccinated.

Sanford’s Vice President of Clinic Operations, Dr. Joshua Crabtree, says while their number of COVID patients hasn’t reached the heights it did last year, another peak is around the corner.

“Our current models suggest that the peak would happen in about two to three weeks from now,” Dr. Crabtree said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Sanford has 141 COVID patients system-wide, 48 of which are in the ICU.

At Avera, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kevin Post says hospitalizations have leveled off for now, but the future remains a big unknown.

“There is a very, very small and fluid capacity at McKennan right now, but that being said, it remains very busy,” Dr. Post said.

And, it’s not just about bed capacity.

“Another big issue right now is not just the total number of hospital beds, but our shortage of health care workers, nursing staff is really short, and that’s a significant limitation as well,” Dr. Post said.

Both health systems agree vaccinations could help fight back the rapid spread of infection.

“The vaccination status is of those most impactful variables that we could have on what our peak admissions and peak surge would be,” Dr. Crabtree said.

The vaccine will also protect someone should they get COVID-19.

“With vaccinations for COVID, really, the goal is to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, and it’s really the number one thing we can do to prevent that,” Dr. Post said.

In Sioux Falls, new cases of COVID have increased in the last two weeks. If the trend continues, both Sanford and Avera fear it could impact elective procedures.

“Earlier on, in Fargo, they had decreased by about 30% on some of their elective procedures, but that’s a day-to-day decision,” Dr. Crabtree said.

Avera says their giving their regional facilities the ability to evaluate the situation for themselves.

“Right now, we have not stopped any elective procedures at this point, but that is a lever we would have to pull in the future should it get to that point,” Dr. Post said.

For the latest COVID case numbers from the state, click here.

For the latest COVID case number from the city of Sioux Falls, click here.

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