SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Schools across KELOLAND are back in session and that means that illnesses are circulating as we head into the tail end of summer and into the traditional cold and flu season.

One of these illnesses, of course, is COVID.

According to David Basel, Avera’s VP of clinical quality, COVID numbers are rising, but not to a concerning degree. “Numbers have definitely increased for COVID here in August, which is not unusual,” he said. “Most people don’t think we’re going to rise nearly to the levels that we did the last three years.”

Despite the expectation of a lesser impact from COVID on the population as a whole, the individual impact can still be serious.

“COVID can still be dangerous, even though it’s not quite as dangerous as it used to be,” Basel said. “I’d put it on par with influenza now.”

Sanford Chief Physician Jeremy Cauwels explained why things are different now.

“I think the important part to know about COVID now is the changes that we’ve made over the past three years,” Cauwels said. “We have an effective treatment for it — we have an effective vaccine — we don’t have the same difficulties with hospital volumes that we did three years ago.”

Basel advocates taking what you might think is a common cold a bit more seriously. “They really could be COVID or influenza or RSV,” he said.

One of the major ways to protect others, both Basel and Cauwels say, is to stay home if you’re sick. “At least 5 days from the onset of symptoms,” Basel said.

Cauwels also emphasized the consideration of personal risk. “For some people that may mean they have no medical problems and this isn’t going to be something they’re going to spend much time worrying about,” he said. “For others — maybe they do have medical problems — those are exactly the type of people that need to make sure they’re up to speed on their vaccinations.”

If you think you’ve got COVID, Cauwels says to contact your doctor. “Give your doctor’s office a call,” he said. “Depending on your risk factors, you may be a very good candidate for getting treated for this illness.”

In addition to vaccination, Basel placed a focus on common sense practices, such as staying home if sick and washing your hands.

“There will be a new vaccine coming out this fall that is formulated to the newest strains that are circulating,” Basel added.

For parents with kids back in school, Basel said to keep handy some at-home tests if possible so that you can find out if your child have COVID in the event that they’re showing symptoms.

The Sioux Falls School District provides guidance of its own on surrounding COVID.

Students and staff must self-monitor for symptoms prior to attending school functions. If they test positive the district advises the following:

  • DO NOT go to school or work.
  • Contact your health care provider.
  • Contact your school to inform them of symptoms. You may also contact the SD Department of Health with any COVID-19 questions. 1-800-997-2880
  • Symptomatic students and staff are advised to seek COVID testing.
  • If positive follow positive case protocol.
  • May return after typical illness exclusion period (24 hours fever-free, 24 hours free of vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Also see SD DOH exclusion recommendations.

You can see the district’s full guidance here.