SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Two officials from Avera and Sanford said their organizations were preparing for more coronavirus and flu patients in the coming weeks.

David Flicek, president and chief executive officer of Avera McKennan and Dr. Mike Wilde of Sanford were part of the Oct. 5 city of Sioux Falls news conference on the coronavirus pandemic.

Flicek said while COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased there are changes within those numbers.

“Sixty percent of COVID-19 patients are now being taken care of outside of Sioux Falls,” Flicek said. The remaining 40% are being care for at Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls, he said.

In March, almost all COVID-19 patients were being cared for at McKennan, he said.

Intensive care unit (ICU) bed capacities have been filling but at McKennan, only 15% of those are occupied by COVID-19 patients. The rest are occupied by people with other issues including delayed care related issues, general sick patients or surgeries, Flicek said.

Avera McKennan recently reached 75% capacity in ICU, Flicek said. But only 30% of those were used by COVID-19 patients, he said.

The 75% ICU capacity was a trigger point to get ready for influenza, Flicek said.

Flicek said Avera will create 12 more ICU beds and about 24-30 more medical surge beds.

Wilde said within Sanford, less than 15% of COVID-19 patients need ventilators.

But, ICU and other patient beds will still be needed.

Sanford continually looks at staffing and expanding, Wilde said. The organization has planned for an additional 16 mixed patient beds in the heart hospital, he said.

Wilde and Flicek said the additional capacity should be ready in several weeks.

The two officials urged the public to continue to maintain social distancing, practice good hand washing and hygiene and to wear face coverings, although they differed slightly on the use of face coverings.

Flicek said COVID-19 response includes a workforce issue. There are about 200 Avera employees on quarantine right now because they were exposed to COVID-19 most likely outside of the workplace, Flicek said.

“So let’s do the right thing and continue to wear our masks going forward,” Flicek said.

“I think there is a lot of focus on masks but masks are really part of the solution,” Wilde said. “There’s data out there both supporting and saying kind of neutral things about masking. We just don’t know yet. We really can’t make a recommendation outside of what the CDC is recommending and (face coverings) really fits in that broad scheme of all things need to do to mitigate the spread of this illness.”

The virus is spread by droplets so people should consider where hands touch and common surfaces as well as wearing face coverings, Wilde said.