City of Sioux Falls working on its own COVID-19 peak model Original

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (pink) cultured in the lab. Credit: NIAID-RML

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — If the state of South Dakota is working with a COVID-19 spread and response model, why would Sioux Falls want one?

It can be valuable for cities to have a COVID-19 model specific to it, said Kurt Cogswell, a data science professor at South Dakota State University in Brookings.

“The growth and peaks of COVID-19 infection levels depend on key factors such as population density, age distribution, and travel patterns that will be different in Sioux Falls, New York, and Minneapolis,” Cogswell said in an email interview with KELOLAND News. “These key factors are important parts of the mathematical and statistical models used to predict infection growth and peaks, leading to different predictions for these cities.”

Based on news conferences conducted Thursday by the city of Sioux Falls and Gov. Kristi Noem’s office, the COVID-19 peak periods could vary within the state.

Gov. Kristi Noem said Thursday afternoon the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Dakota may not happen until the end of June or into July and said the situation can change rapidly. On Wednesday, Noem said the peak could be July into August.

A Sioux Falls doctor from Sanford responded to a question as to what the medical professionals expected the surge to look like during a city of Sioux Falls news conference.

Dr. Mike Wilde of Sanford Health said, “The surge, thanks to the cooperation of all of us in the community, (and) based on the modeling, looks to still be a ways off. By that I mean around another two to four weeks,” Wilde said.

The surge will not a rapid peak but a flatter, sustained influx of patients, Wilde said.

Dr. Mike Elliot of Avera Health said the models vary some in terms of peak times and duration. Avera and Sanford continue to work with local officials on a peak/surge model, he said.

Cogswell said it wouldn’t be unusual for areas to have a different surge or peak time.

“Just as key factors impacting infection growth and peaks differ between Sioux Falls and New York, they differ between Sioux Falls and a more rural region of the state,” Cogswell said. “For example, greater population density generally means greater rates of people interacting and thus more rapid infection spread.  That would result in an earlier peak in a metro area than a rural region in the same state.”

Sanford and Avera Health are among the partners the city is working with to develop a local surge model, Jill Franken, the director of Sioux Falls Public Health said in Thursday’s city news briefing and at the April 1 Sioux Falls Council meeting.

Franken said at the April 1 meeting the city wants a model specific to the Sioux Falls Metropolitan Area so the city can better determine surge or peak rates and actions the city may need to take. The U.S. Commerce, U.S Census Bureau include McCook, Turner, Minnehaha and Lincoln in the Sioux Fall Metro Area with an estimated 2018 population of about 266,000.

Noem said Thursday a one size fits all approach statewide won’t work in South Dakota. Communities may need specific measures that fit their communities, Noem said.

“If I tell everyone to go into their homes and don’t come out for two weeks (it wouldn’t stop the virus),” Noem said. COVID-19 can’t be stopped but the spread can be slowed so that infected patients won’t overwhelm hospitals and that fewer people get it, Noem said.

Also, measures that are taken must be sustainable, Noem said. So far, the state’s measures have helped slow the COVID-19 spread and make it possible for medical workers to better respond when there is a peak, Noem said.

The city of Sioux Falls may possibly consider a shelter in place regulation. City officials mentioned the possibility of shelter in place regulation at the April 1 meeting but Mayor Paul Ten Haken said that possibility could not be legally discussed at that time. That possible measure could be addressed if added to next week’s council meeting or at a special meeting. More information related to additional measures such as shelter in place would also soon be available, Ten Haken said.

Franken said at the meeting, the local DOH continues to gather information for the city including for the COVID-19 peak or surge model.

Franken said one source of data and information is cities in a position similar to Sioux Falls. Franken said officials are examining data and measures from cities including Fargo, North Dakota; Des Moines, Iowa; Tallahassee, Florida, and others.

Those examples have similar populations, demographics, COVID-19 case timing and other features similar to Sioux Falls, Franken said.

“The point I’m trying to make is we are trying to utilize data in another way and not just looking at our community…,” Franken said on April 1.

Tallahassee for example had its first case of COVID-19 about the same time as Sioux Falls but has fewer COVID-19 cases, Franken said. Tallahassee also enacted more restrictive measures sooner than the state of South Dakota or Sioux Falls, she said.

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