SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Since Gov. Kristi Noem announced her “back to normal” plan on April 28, she and other state officials have repeatedly said that coronavirus cases in the state would continue.
The state posted 193 new cases on Aug. 21. The numbers come with about seven days after the DOH announced potential public exposure risks at a Sioux Empire Fair concert, at a business in Sioux Falls and at a bar and grill in Brookings and within days of potential exposures in the Black Hills area. The DOH has announced at least six potential public COVID-19 exposures since Aug. 13.
A total of eight were announced in May, according to the DOH website.
The state has 10,884 total COVID-19 cases.
South Dakota recorded its highest number of cases just days after the U.S. recorded its lowest number of new cases in months. On Aug. 17, the U.S. had 35,112 new cases and 445 deaths.
Noem and other officials have also often said that hospitalization rates continue to be low, which is good news and that the death rate remains low, which is also good during a pandemic.
The death toll was 14 on April 29 and it is 159 as of Aug. 21. The number of people ever hospitalized was 165 on April 29 and it’s 948 as of Aug. 21.
The state was projecting many more hospital beds, including intensive care unit beds, to be needed early in the pandemic compared to projections in recent weeks. As of Aug. 21, the DOH said COVID-19 patients occupied 2% of all hospital beds.
Although the state appears to be on track with projections that doesn’t mean there won’t be more deaths, hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases.
A recent study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation says South Dakota will reach its COVID-19 peak in December if the current situation continues with no additional restrictions such as a mask mandate. The study projects about 254 people will die. If the state had a mask mandate, 183.4 people would die from COVID-19, according to the study.
The study projects that 33.45 of the 74 available ICU beds in the state will be needed on Dec. 1. Another 125 of all available hospital beds will be needed.
DOH secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon said during an Aug. 20 news briefing that coronavirus modeling was done to ensure that enough hospital beds were available for COVID-19 patients that needed it.
The state was “preparing for the worst case scenario,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “That work has been completed.”
The state does not plan do any more COVID-19 modeling, she said.
“We are well within our capacity in the state,” Malsam-Rysdon said of COVID-19 hospital needs.
The state’s percent positive rate is 8% over the past 14 days, according to the DOH. The cumulative positivity rate is 7.3%
Johns Hopkins has the state’s positivity rate at 10.8%
CovidActNow has South Dakota ranked 27th in COVID-19 cases with 12.1 daily news cases per 100,000 and a 10.1% positivity rate. The study says 16% of the ICU capacity, defined as headroom, is being used.
Health experts pay attention to the percent positive rate as a way to determine if COVID-19 transmission is being contained and if testing is widespread enough to identify new cases.
Johns Hopkins said it believes “the ideal way to calculate positivity would be number of people who test positive divided by number of people who are tested.” According to Johns Hopkins, most states’ test positivity tracking efforts looks at number of cases divided by number of negative tests plus number of cases.
“A higher percent positive suggests higher transmission and that there are likely more people with coronavirus in the community who haven’t been tested yet,” a report by Johns Hopkins said.
The state’s largest city and largest metropolitan area has big role in the COVID-19 numbers.
The DOH has announced at least 15 public exposure risks in Sioux Falls since April 1.
The city of Sioux Falls is in Minnehaha and Lincoln counties. The Sioux Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area includes those two counties and Turner and McCook counties. The estimated Sioux Falls MSA population is 266,000 and the estimated Sioux Falls population is 190,750.
The state’s 2019 estimated population is 884,659.
The Sioux Falls area had 80 new COVID-19 cases as of Aug. 21. The city of Sioux Falls has a dashboard with COVID-19 information on its website. The area has 584 active cases and a total of 5,587 COVID-19 cases. The area has 51.33% of all COVID-19 cases in South Dakota. It has 45.2% (72) of all deaths.
There are 36 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Sioux Falls area, which accounts for 72% of all current hospitalized cases (50) in the state.
The Sioux Falls area has 225 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, according to the city website.
Mayor Paul Ten Haken said in an Aug. 17 news conference that COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Sioux Falls area have remained low compared to the original projections. Hospitalization rates are a key factor in determining a response to COVID-19 and as an indicator of the severity, he said.
As of now, the city does not need a mask mandate and low hospitalization numbers are one big reason why, Ten Haken said. If the hospitalization numbers increase significantly, there could be a discussion about masks, he said.
The Sioux Falls area’s percent positive rate is 12%, according to the city’s website.