COVID-19 Beyond the Numbers: Deciphering hospitalizations on the SDDOH Dashboard

Coronavirus

From confirmed cases to hospitalizations and deaths, some numbers on South Dakota’s COVID-19 dashboard only include residents–others include people from Iowa, Minnesota and surrounding states.

The numbers are at least 23 hours old, before they’re made public. We are looking beyond the numbers of those hospitalized to explain what they really represent.

In just 24 hours, 70 South Dakotans were admitted to hospitals with COVID-19. During that same time period, the number of people hospitalized in the state increased by just one patient.

While they sound similar, the number of people “currently hospitalized” and the number of people “ever hospitalized” represent two different groups of people.


Current hospitalizations, include anyone staying in a South Dakota hospital bed with COVID-19. The total includes patients from Minnesota, Iowa and other states.

“Earlier this spring there was an outbreak in Sioux City and a lot of those patients came to Sioux Falls and so you saw an increase in those currently hospitalized numbers. But it was due to residents of Iowa. So it doesn’t necessarily reflect South Dakota residents, whereas the “ever hospitalized” numbers do,” SDSU Epidemiologist Bonny Specker said.

The number of patients ever hospitalized includes only South Dakota residents. Some are in South Dakota. Some are hospitalized in neighboring states.

“The thing that recently has been difficult is trying to figure out how many South Dakota residents are being transferred out of state, because that doesn’t appear anywhere. They do appear under ‘ever hospitalized,’ but they do not appear under ‘currently hospitalized.'”

Bonny Specker, South Dakota State University Epidemiologist

South Dakota’s hospitals are still very busy. At last report, two of South Dakota’s largest intensive care units did not have any open beds.

Another thing you’ll find in the fine print: most of the numbers on the state website are about a day old when the state posts them. However, it can be six days before the state reports a COVID-19 death. That’s because a death certificate needs to be filed, which can take up to five days after someone dies. If the state receives it and other data before 1 p.m., it’s released the following day.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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