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Health officials reflect on two year mark of COVID-19 pandemic

Local healthcare systems are hopeful that the continuing drop in new and active cases is a sign that the pandemic is finally winding down.
Published: Mar. 10, 2022 at 9:37 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - It’s two years to the date when state health officials reported the first case of COVID-19 in South Dakota. Local healthcare systems are hopeful that the continuing drop in new and active cases is a sign that the pandemic is finally winding down.

When the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the state, Avera Medical Group Vice President for Clinical Quality Dr. David Basel said they weren’t sure what was in store for the future.

“We were thinking, ‘Well, let’s just get through the next month or two, and things will hopefully then improve and we can kind of get back to things. We were really looking at it as a sprint at that time, and never projected that this was going to be a two year marathon.” said Basel.

After that time, the numbers are in. According to the South Dakota Department of Health, there have been 236,000 cases reported in the state the last two years. Over 10,000 people have ever been hospitalized, and more than 2,800 have lost their lives.

Basel said a turning point in the pandemic has been the distribution of vaccines in the state, praising everyone involved in the process for the successful rollout.

“Several different health systems, independent hospitals, and the state to work through the details so far in advance of what this was going to look like. When we actually finally got some vaccines on the dock, we started putting it in shots in arms that afternoon.” said Basel.

Sanford Health Chief Physician Dr. Jeremy Cauwels said currently, the dropping cases is a trend in the right direction, and any future spikes they may see won’t stress healthcare systems to the limit.

“I don’t think we’re going to be worried about the same issues with hospital capacity that we did in the last couple of bumps. In that situation, we’ve really gotten to a point were now this is about healthcare managing illness, not public health emergencies. And I think that’s the difference between endemic and pandemic.” said Cauwels.

Cauwels said the pandemic would have been much worse if not for the hard work of all healthcare workers, making sure to treat everyone who needed help got the best they could provide.

“But they did all of that to make sure to keep the rest of us safe. In order to pay proper respect for all of that, I really think taking a moment two years after the initial case to think about all of the ups and downs, that is really important.” said Cauwels.

Cauwels and Basel said that the dropping cases is a good trend, but that the public will still need to be mindful of their own health in the future and take precautions to prevent the spread of any illnesses.

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