Officials say COVID-19 safety measures must continue even as vaccine is on the way, numbers improve Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Hospitalizations that have leveled off, coronavirus cases that have decreased over the past several days and an expected vaccine are causes for optimism but not for backing off on safety measures when it comes to the pandemic, officials said during the Nov. 23 city of Sioux Falls coronavirus news conference.

Avera’s Dr. Mike Elliot stressed the need to continue to wear masks. “It’s clear that masks work. They work the best when they adopt this as a community effort,” Elliot said. “We support mask mandates both at the state level and local level.”

There has been a re-energizing of efforts such as hand washing, mask wearing and physical social distancing in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, said Dr. Mike Wilde of Sanford.

The public needs to continue masking, socially distancing, hand washing and other actions to curb the spread of COVID-19, said Jill Franken, the director of the Sioux Falls Health Department.

When asked if the two health care organizations had sought a change in the state policy on mask mandates:

“We support CDC guidelines,” Wilde said. “Our role is to support CDC guidelines.”

Wilde said he couldn’t speak as to whether Sanford Health has asked the governor to change any coronavirus policies such as establishing a statewide mask mandate.

Elliot repeated that Avera has supported local and statewide mask mandates.

The state has had more than 392 COVID-19 deaths in November alone, Elliot said. Total COVID-19 deaths in the state so far total more than flu total deaths from the past 10 years combined, Elliot said.

“I’d love to tell you we’ve turned the corner but it’s too soon,” Elliot said.

Human behavior over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays will have a big impact on coronavirus deaths, hospitalizations and cases in the months that follow, Elliot said.

Wilde advised the public to carefully consider their holiday plans. For example, his family will have only a small family gathering.

Both doctors and Franken said they were optimistic about three new vaccines on the horizon and new treatments for COVID-19.

The local health department is working with the state and others to be ready when vaccines arrive, Franken said.

Not only does the public need to maintain its physical health, but also it mental health.

Franken said people need to daily ask themselves how they are doing in terms of their mental health. Feelings of sadness or anxiety are “very real emotions,” she said.

“Take time every single day to reflect on how you are feeling,” Franken said. People are not alone and help is available through the local Helpline or Live Well Sioux Falls or through their primary care provider, Franken said.

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