Loosening COVID-19 restrictions in Sioux Falls depends in part on hospitalization rate

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FILE – This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. On Tuesday, April 21, 2020, U.S. health regulators OK’d the first coronavirus test that allows people to collect their own sample at home, a new approach that could help expand testing options in most states. The sample will still have to be shipped for processing back to LabCorp, which operates diagnostic labs throughout the U.S. (NIAID-RML via AP)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Although the city of Sioux Falls and the state of South Dakota haven’t yet reached their COVID-19 pandemic peaks, both are opening up various businesses and public areas.

The Sioux Falls City Council on Friday will consider an ordinance that outlines how businesses including bars and restaurants can reopen after the city’s health ordinance on gatherings of 10 or fewer people is likely to be changed.

Mayor Paul TenHaken presented data at a Thursday news briefing that he used to discuss reopening plans.

TenHaken and Gov. Kristi Noem have said people will still get COVID-19 as parts of the city and the state open up, but conditions have improved enough to make those changes.

Hospitalization numbers have been a key part of COVID-19 models and responses in the city and in the state, city and state officials have said in various news briefings and council meetings.

Noem said again in a Friday news briefing that South Dakota has enough beds to handle those who will need to be hospitalized in the state while a COVID-19 peak approaches and the state begins to return to her “back to normal plan.”

In the Sioux Falls Metropolitan Area (SFMA), TenHaken’s charts show that 498 beds will be needed on May 30 when COVID-19 appears to be at the peak in the SFMA. That’s much less than what city models had originally projected. The number of beds has been reduced because of a 25% reduction in social contact through physical distancing measures such as gatherings of 10 or less.

The hospitalization chart shows that 6.3% of those who get COVID-19 will need hospitalization compared to 8% in prior COVID-19 models.

As of April 29, the Sioux Falls Metropolitan Area (SFMA) ranked 11th in per capita COVID-19 cases at 808.23, according to TenHaken’s charts. The per capita is per 100,000 residents.

Smithfield Foods plant connected cases account for a majority of the area’s COVID-19 cases. The SFMA would rank around 31 or 32 with 484.86 cases per capita without the Smithfield employee cases. It would rank around 43 or 44 at 392.04 cases per capita without the Smithfield close contact cases, according to the charts.

The 11th per capita ranking still puts the SFMA higher than Waterloo-Ceder Falls, Iowa, area, which also had a recent breakout of COVID-19 with meatpacking plant employees and the Sioux City, Iowa, area, which had a similar breakout. But SFMA ranks below Grand Island, Nebraska, which is 1,187.60 cases per capita.

The SFMA’s per capita COVID-19 ranking is also higher than cities to which Sioux Falls had compared itself in earlier COVID-19 modeling.

The city used Des Moines, Iowa; Fargo, North Dakota; Tallahassee, Florida; and cities with similar populations and demographic makeups. City officials said earlier this month that those cities started with similar positive cases on similar dates. Measures taken in those cities would help the city of Sioux Falls determine its COVID-19 response.

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