Projections show South Dakota peak a few weeks away; 200+ deaths possible if strong social distancing measures are enacted

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — At its peak, South Dakota is expected to see more than 200 deaths from COVID-19 and some resource shortages like Intensive Care Unit beds, according to a new forecast from the University of Washington.

However, researchers say that’s only if Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) takes a stronger stance on social distancing within the next seven days.

The model, which White House Coronavirus Task Force lead Dr. Deborah Birx has said matches their internal models pretty well, shows the peak use of hospital resources in South Dakota on May 1 with peak deaths beginning on April 26 and lasting until May 8.

That apex is behind the national anticipated date of April 15.

At its peak, South Dakota could see an average of six COVID-19 deaths per day. The forecast anticipated 204 deaths by August, but could go as high as 400.

“Our estimated trajectory of COVID-19 deaths assumes continued and uninterrupted vigilance by the general public, hospital and health workers, and government agencies,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine. “The trajectory of the pandemic will change – and dramatically for the worse – if people ease up on social distancing or relax with other precautions. We encourage everyone to adhere to those precautions to help save lives.”

All of this, however, hinges on states enacting three out of four social distancing requirements until the end of May 2020. Those include: a stay at home order, schools closed, non-essential services closed (like bars and restaurants) and travel severely limited.

Currently, only schools are closed at a statewide level.

Researchers said in states that do not currently have social distancing in place, the model assumes they will put it in place within seven days.

“If they do not, then the estimates for the number of deaths and the burden on their hospital systems will reflect this and will go up,” the researchers said.

They also say local recommendations and partial orders are showing to not be an effective statewide response, according to data. South Dakota has a patchwork of social distancing regulations at different local government levels, but statewide, only recommendations from Noem.

That could change, however, as the legislature looks to revise some powers, according to draft legislation filed with the Legislative Research Council. Lawmakers are expected to act on Monday.

Follow Capitol News Bureau Correspondent Bob Mercer for the latest in Pierre.

In an interview with KELOLAND News, Noem said the state expects peak infection rates in May or June.

“I think I need to be honest with folks. This is just beginning in South Dakota. We’re going to be doing this for many more weeks,” Noem said.

Noem had encouraged social distancing and businesses to limit to 10 or fewer people, but without enforceable action.

“Individual behavioral responses and government-mandated social distancing (school closures, non-essential service closures, and shelter-in-place orders) can dramatically influence the course of the epidemic,” the researchers said in a report explaining how they came up with the forecast.

While the researchers say it’s hard to get to an exact number, implementing three of the four measures will be enough to follow the trajectory of Wuhan, China, which was able to see a dramatic decline in the pandemic.

“But it is plausible that it requires all 4 measures,” the researcher said.

So, if more strict restrictions go into effect within the next seven days, IHME forecasts South Dakota will actually not have a hospital bed shortage overall, will need 18 additional intensive care beds and possibly 73 ventilators.

The state hasn’t released numbers on how many ventilators it has.

The data is being updated as new information comes in and governors or the federal government take more direct action.

“We hope these forecasts will help leaders of medical systems figure out innovative ways to deliver high-quality care to those who will need their services in the coming weeks,” Murray said.

If the country as a whole completes strong social distancing, the Washington study predicts this wave of the pandemic could end by June in the United States.

Click here to learn more about how the researchers are forecasting COVID-19.


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