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Hospital beds fill as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in South Dakota

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 5:20 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Cases of COVID-19 continue to climb in South Dakota, as the Omicron variant continues to spread. It’s again putting strain on healthcare systems and medical professionals as they try and keep hospital bed space available for those who need it.

The state saw an additional 2,708 cases Wednesday, while active infections rose by over 2,000 to 22,743, a new pandemic high. That also reflects in the state’s hospital bed space. According to the South Dakota Department of Health, only 30 percent of available hospital beds total are available across the state. ICU beds are slightly lower, coming in at 29 percent open.

But that also varies region by region. In the southeastern corner of the state, only 23 percent of available hospital beds are open, while 28 percent of ICU beds remain unused. In the Black Hills Region, only 17 percent of hospital beds are available, with just under 10 percent of ICU beds open.

Both Avera Health and Sanford Health note that their ICU beds and hospitals in Sioux Falls are feeling the strain that Omicron is placing on the healthcare system.

“For our adult intensive care unit beds, this morning we had roughly ten out of 70 beds total that were available. And I don’t know by this afternoon if we filled those ten or not.” said Sanford Health Chief Physician Dr. Jeremy Cauwels.

“There continues to be a severe shortage of those, and limited availability. What we’re to do there is triage patients to the right level of care.” said Avera Medical Group Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kevin Post.

That spike in patients isn’t just occurring in adults, but in children as well. Wednesday marked the first death in the state of a child nine years old and younger due to COVID-19, and pediatric wings are being hit hard.

“That unit for us is only 12 beds. We currently have 12 patients in 12 beds, and have had to open up an expansion unit for an additional four.” said Cauwels.

Both Post and Cauwels noted that while the Omicron variant has caused a number of breakthrough cases, unvaccinated individuals are still the overwhelming majority of those admitted to hospitals and clinics.

“Primarily what we’re seeing is about 75 percent of those patients are unvaccinated. And then when you get into your critical care patients, those on a ventilator, even much more so are unvaccinated.” said Post.

And the increased case numbers are only continuing to stress staff.

“They’re being called upon again to come in a little bit extra. We’re calling again to other places around the country to try and find more nurses, and of course there aren’t any.” said Cauwels.

Both Post and Cauwels said it’s going to be a team effort to lower cases. That means they’re asking people to stay home and away from others if they’re sick, and get vaccinated or get a booster shot when available.

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