SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The 20-29 population leads South Dakota in the number of total coronavirus cases. That same age group is only ahead of two age groups (10-19 and 80+) in the number of persons vaccinated.
At Avera, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Elliott said the health system has seen both the average age of hospitalization and positive care get younger. In November, the average age of a patient hospitalized for COVID-19 was 68-years-old, down to 61 for the month of March. The average age of a positive test result in November was 45. In March, it was down to 41.
“We absolutely are seeing some trends,” Dr. Elliott told KELOLAND News. “Some of that drop is due to the vaccine rollout. Beyond that, we have seen an increase in the positivity rate particularly in the 20-29 age range.”
Dr. Elliott said the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the community and everyone should understand the risks.
“Understand that this is not the flu,” Dr. Elliott said. “COVID can be a wickedly severe illness. It can be severe in all ages. Just because you are young and healthy does not guarantee you won’t have significant illness from COVID.”
He added the fastest way to end the pandemic is for people to get vaccinated.
“The fastest path forward is to develop herd immunity; to get 70% or more of us vaccinated,” Dr. Elliott said. “That’s going to require the contribution of our younger folks.”
He called the COVID-19 vaccines “incredibly well-studied and incredibly safe.” The White House COVID-19 Response Team announced Friday 90% of American’s doctors have received the vaccine.
The COVID-19 vaccine available to anyone age 16 or older in South Dakota. You can find vaccine locations through the COVID.SD.GOV website.
Dr. Elliott said health officials are hoping within a few weeks children as young as age 12 will be approved to receive the vaccine.
“We’ve said all along we’re in a race: vaccination versus variants,” Dr. Elliott said.