SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Roughly two months ago, Gov. Kristi Noem posted on her Governor’s Facebook page that South Dakota had peaked with COVID-19. Noem said South Dakota’s “COVID-19 spread peaked the latest of just about any state,” on Sept. 22.
If the peak was on Sept. 22, it’s been a heck of a second wave.
South Dakota had 18,624 COVID-19 cases on Nov. 17. The state had 582 people in the hospital, 644 deaths, 67,284 total cases, 48,016 recovered individuals and 3,769 total people who have been hospitalized. Most deaths were in the 80 plus age range (362), followed by the 70 to 79 range (129).
But after Noem’s peak post on Sept. 22, South Dakota Department of Health Officials said during a Sept. 24 news briefing that it was too soon to say if the state had peaked with COVID-19.
The state had 178 people with COVID-19 in the hospital, 2,817 active cases and 202 deaths, on Sept. 22.
Fast forward to Nov. 4 when DOH epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton said he expected hospitalizations to keep increasing.
“With the increasing cases that we’ve seen, the models from CDC are a showing that were gonna be seeing level, if not short term increases in, hospital bed use and then start to decline from there,” Clayton said in a Nov. 4 KELOLAND News story.
Noem will have a news conference at 1 p.m. Wednesday, but her office did not state what she will address.
The Governor has not had a COVID-19 related news conference since July 28 when she talked about the need for South Dakota’s K-12 students to be in school for in person instruction.
What’s been happening with COVID-19 in the state since July 28 and Sept. 28?
Noem has repeatedly stressed since the pandemic started that the state goal was to flatten the curve of the spread of COVID-19 to make sure hospitals have the capacity to care for sick people.
The numbers as of Nov. 17 are far below what was originally projected as possibilities in March.
On March 23, Noem said that early projections showed that up 30% of South Dakotans could get COVID-19. That would be about 265,398 individuals or about the combined populations of Sioux Falls and Rapid City.
But that estimate was early in the pandemic in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control projected in March that between 200,000 to 1.7 million people could die from COVID-19. The death toll as of Nov. 17 was 248,462. The projections for the U.S. and South Dakota were made before any advances in treatment for COVID-19 or before, or just at the start, of measures such as mask wearing, crowd restrictions, shelter in place and others were required, recommended or put into practice.
The state finished August with 76 people in the hospital with COVID-19 and a total of 1,029 who had been hospitalized.
On Oct. 5, she boasted in a Facebook post that the state had met that goal and also slowed the spread of COVID-19.
While Noem said in her Oct. 5 post that the goals were met, COVID-19 kept spreading and increasing the number of deaths and hospitalizations.
On Oct. 5, the state had 241 people in the hospital with COVID-19, according to the DOH. On Oct. 9 there were 277. There were 4,274 active cases on Oct. 5.
As the number of cases increased, so did the number of recoveries. On Oct. 9, there were 27,215 total COVID-19 cases and 21,750 individuals identified as recovered.
And in an Oct. 9 post from Noem, it appeared she was claiming victory over COVID-19.
But doctors and health officials around the state were not claiming victory over COVID-19 in October.
During an Oct. 5 news briefing in Sioux Falls, David Flicek, President and Chief Executive Officer of Avera McKennan and Dr. Mike Wilde of Sanford said COVID-19 patients and non-COVID-19 patients were straining their available ICU and overall staffed beds.
The state had 241 people in the hospital with COVID-19. There were 4,274 active cases.
Surge plans had been already been activated by both health care systems.
In mid- April, doctors from Avera and Sanford said their systems had surge plans in place to handle COVID-19 patients and others. But, here was one scenario that was possibility back in April which was that Sioux Falls and the state would have different COVID-19 peaks.
In a media briefing on April 17, South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said while the state was planning for 1,300 Intensive Care Unit beds, the most recent models showed the state would need 650 beds.
On Sept. 24, the DOH said the state had 245 ICU beds.
The DOH website lists the available capacity for ICU and general staffed beds in the state. As of Nov. 17, 38.9% of the staffed ICU beds were available, according to the state.
But, the DOH ICU staffed beds also include neonatal intensive care beds (NICU) which are designed for infants.
On Nov. 18, the DOH website broke down the adult ICU and the pediatric beds. The DOH said 18.1% of adult ICU beds were available on Nov. 18.
As of Oct. 6, the DOH said the state had 293 staffed ICU beds. Two organizations have South Dakota with 113 or 128 NICU beds which would leave 180 or 168 ICU beds for adults, based on the state’s 293 staffed ICU beds count.
In October, health care officials were reporting that they were using surge plans, which includes adding patient hospital beds. Health care officials said COVID-19 patients and non-COVID-19 patients needed ICU and other patient beds.
On Oct. 22, Noem posted on her Governor’s Facebook page that South Dakota has the hospital capacity to care for those who need it. She also highlighted that lockdowns don’t stop COVID-19 from spreading but they do decimate the economy.
Deaths continued to increase in October. The state ended the month with 214 deaths.
November started with significant increases in deaths. As of Nov. 17, there have been 219 COVID-19 deaths for the month.
Active hospitalizations reached 607 on Nov. 10 and were at 582 on Nov. 17. There have been 644 total deaths.
Recoveries were at 48,016 and total cases were at 67,284 on Nov. 17.
Health officials across the state continue to sound the warning about hospital capacity in South Dakota.
On Nov. 17, the South Dakota Medical Association said it supported a statewide mask mandate.
Dr. David Basel of Avera said on Nov. 17 that Avera’s main campus had doubled its ICU capacity and patient levels were at “historic levels.”
Doctors from Sanford and Avera announced again on Nov. 17 that their systems were using surge capacity to add more beds for COVID-19 and non COVID-19 patients.
On Nov. 17, Noem appeared to shift her attention to COVID-19 testing as she pointed out increased testing in the state on her Governor’s Twitter account.
The increased testing for Nov. 10 through Nov. 14 can be attributed in part to the U.S. Surgeon General’s office selecting South Dakota as one of the state the federal government would provide free COVID-19 testing at 10 sites around the state.
“Communities across the state were selected for mass testing to augment current community testing options,” South Dakota Department of Health spokesman Derrick Haskins said in an email to KELOLAND News. for a Nov. 9 story.
The mass testing organized with the help of federal officials and the South Dakota National Guard are the first such community mass testing program in the state since the pandemic started.
There was mass testing conducted in April when there was coronavirus outbreak linked to Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls. The city of Huron had a mass testing event in September related to the state fair.
When the Governor shares test records she appears to be sharing recorded total tests. The DOH’s daily reports include total number of tests and positive and negatives. The total number of tests each day do not equal individuals because some individuals may be tested more than once.
The free community COVIDF-19 tests started on Nov. 10 in Pierre. KELOLAND News breaks down the number of new persons tested from the DOH Data reported each day. It is not yet known how many tests can be attributed to the community testing program.
The DOH has a news conference slated for Nov. 18.
There were 2,421 new persons tested on Nov. 11. Here’s the breakdown for each day’s report starting with Nov. 12 and ending on Nov. 17: 2,968, 2,573, 3,162, 2,291, 2,033, and 2,212.
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