Avera doctor’s outlook on COVID-19 includes staffing worries, flu season and optimism from kid vaccines

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The good news is it’s not November 2020. 

The bad news is COVID-19 is at “high” or “substantial” community spread in 63 of South Dakota’s 66 counties, more than 230 people have been in hospitals for COVID-19 in the past week and the latest statewide seven-day positivity rate is at 15.5%. 

At Avera Health, Dr. David Basel says the 14 to 30 day outlook looks much like the same past weeks — stable or rising numbers of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. 

“Unlike the past two mini peaks with COVID, this one seems to be hanging around a little bit longer,” Basel told KELOLAND News. “It probably has a lot to do with folks coming back indoors a little bit more. Bottom result is we’re a little bit worried about what the rates are doing right now.” 

In South Dakota, active COVID-19 cases are at 6,534. Avera McKennan’s main hospital has 39 COVID-19 occupied hospital beds with 20 in the ICU and 13 on ventilators. 

“It’s a burden,” Basel said. “Like many industries, staffing is one of our biggest concerns right now. At this point, staffing is probably a bigger concern for us than facilities.” 

With any COVID-19 statistics, Basel said each number shows a reflection of both the strength of the virus as well as the number of unvaccinated people it can more easily infect.

“We just got to get more people vaccinated if we’re going to get to the otherside of this,” Basel said. “It’s clear that natural immunity of people being infected is not enough. We’re seeing reinfections and the cases aren’t going down.” 

Basel, Avera’s Vice President of Clinical Quality, said immunity to COVID-19 from natural infection is not like the Chicken Pox and more like the seasonal flu and cold virus. 

“Our immune system just doesn’t hang on and keep a strong immune response over time,” Basel said. “We’re finding that the vaccine is very targeted, gets very high levels of antibodies that last longer and are more protective longer than natural immunity.”

Basel said the state continues to make progress with COVID-19 vaccinations. He said he’s hopeful getting kids ages 5-11 vaccinated will slow COVID-19 spread in schools. 

South Dakota is reporting 58% of the population over the age of 12 as being fully vaccinated, while 70% have received at least one dose. There’s been nearly 6,000 kids under the age of 12 who have received a vaccine since it became eligible on Nov. 4.

Holidays depends on individual situation 

With Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s all approaching, Basel said COVID-19 protections for families should be discussed on a case-by-case basis.

He used a personal example, saying his family did not gather for Thanksgiving last year, but plans to this year. He said his 80-year-old mother has received a COVID-19 booster vaccine, so he feels comfortable with her attending and added “pretty much everybody” in his family has been fully vaccinated.

Basel said any gatherings with unvaccinated members of families or people with chronic medical conditions may want to consider other precautions like masks when in close quarters.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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