Doctors tell council members systems can handle COVID-19 hospitalization surge in Sioux Falls Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Two doctors told members of the Sioux Falls City Council that coronavirus hospitalization numbers are increasing at Avera Health and Sanford Health both at their facilities in Sioux Falls and across their systems.

Dr. Mike Wilde of Sanford and Dr. Michael Elliott of Avera were at an afternoon information meeting today and spoke along with Jill Franken, the director of Sioux Falls Public Health.

But with the recent increase each health care system is able to handle the increase, Wilde and Elliott said.

The hospitalization rate has been stressed by Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken and South Dakota Department of Health officials as a key number in evaluating the COVID-19 situation in a community or the state. In an Aug. 17 news briefing, TenHaken said when Avera and Sanford each reached 40 COVID-19 patients for a sustained period it could cause the city to evaluate a mask mandate.

The two doctors did not indicate that each hospital had 40 COVID-19 patients.

Rick Kiley asked what the manageable capacity is because one of the goals of the council was not to surpass capacity levels.

Wilde said in response that “Sanford has capacity.” He said he wasn’t able to quote or calculate capacity percentages at that point during the meeting.

Elliott said earlier in the meeting that Avera has planned for surges.

“A month ago I would say we were right at 10 COVID patients (at Avera McKennan) and 20 across the entire system,” Elliot said.

As of Sept. 22, there are 30 COVID-19 patients at McKennan and 75 across the Avera system, Elliot said.

Wilde said there has been a recent increase of 15% to 20% in COVID-19 patients in the Sanford system. Some of those patients are from Sioux Falls, others are from out of state or from within the state of South Dakota, he said.

The city of Sioux Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area has 70 hospitalizations, according to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard. The Sioux Falls MSA includes the counties of Lincoln, Minnehaha, McCook and Turner.

Sioux Falls area COVID-19 dashboard data. The data is from the South Dakota Department of Health. The numbers were posted on Sept. 22.

Elliott said another 350 people have been treated at home by Avera who otherwise could have been hospitalized. Less than 5% of those 350 people with COVID-19 ended up in the hospital, he said.

Franken and the two doctors stressed during the meeting that wearing masks was still one of the most critical actions in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“COVID-19 can be contagious before you get symptoms,” Elliott said. Consider how many people a person can unknowingly expose others to COVID-19 while they are not displaying symptoms, Elliott said.

“You can shed the virus even while you are asymptomatic,” Wilde said.

Wearing a mask can protect others and protect the individual, Elliott said.

Even a negative test cannot be total assurance because symptoms can develop later that indicate the virus, Wilde said.

The two doctors also stressed that good hand hygiene, hand washing, social distancing, isolating and quarantine when required are still very important actions to take to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The informational meeting was held roughly an hour after a Sanford official and the Denny Sanford Premier Center announced the cancellation of the Chris Young concert that had been scheduled for Oct. 24 as part of inaugural Sportsmen’s Showcase.

Wilde was asked about Centers for Disease (CDC) guidelines for indoor and outdoor gatherings.

CDC looks at low, moderate and high risk and to be aware of the risk when determining restrictions and actions, Wilde said.

Wilde said off the top of his head a low risk gathering would be less number of people within a distance people who had been around, no outsiders. The progression goes to the number of people, where people traveling from and similar.

Wilde said in general the CDC has said outdoor venues tend to have less chance of transmission but are not a guarantee.

COVID-19 data from the city of Sioux Falls COVID-19 dashboard. The numbers were posted on Sept. 22.

Franken expects COVID-19 cases to continue into the fall and winter. As of Sept. 22, Lincoln County and Minnehaha County had 1,185 COVID-19 so far in September. The area’s COVID-19 percent positive rate for the two counties was 15.9% as of Sept. 19.

Sioux Falls Public Health is working with Lutheran Social Services to establish another recovery center for COVID-19 patients who may not have the ability to isolate at home or those don’t have a place to be in quarantine, Franken said.

The recovery center housed such people in a hotel(s) and closed earlier this month after COVID-19 cases decreased, Franken said.

The center will be needed this fall and winter as COVID-19 cases increase, Franken said.

The discussion also comes as the city council provided $225,000 to Experience Sioux Falls to market the city as a safe place to host events and safe place for visitors.

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