COVID-19 Beyond the Numbers: Hospitalizations rise with younger patients; more on ventilators


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota saw a two-month high in hospitalizations this week. While the number of people hospitalized leveled off a little bit today, the state’s hospitals tell us that admitted patients are younger and a majority are not vaccinated.

Faces of COVID19

Ryan Oaks is back on the job at manager of Mini-Critters pet store in Sioux Falls. When he started feeling sick, he didn’t think it was COVID-19.

“I was tired and I felt kind of like I was riding a bicycle under water,” Oaks said.

He ended up in the hospital when he couldn’t breathe. A scan of his lungs showed he had pneumonia caused by the virus.

46-year-old Ryan Oaks was hospitalized this month for pneumonia caused by COVID-19

“It definitely makes me feel blessed that an almost 50-year-old man and I’m in good health and was able to minimize my stay to three days; versus one month, two months. There was a gentleman who was there who was pushing six or seven months,” Oaks said.

“We’re still seeing plenty of really sick folks; still seeing patients who are dying routinely from COVID. So we have not won this war by any stretch yet,” Dr. David Basel of Avera Health said.

Dr. David Basel says the drop in hospitalization numbers in early March may have lured people into a false sense of security.

“Then a combination of variants coming in the the community; temperatures getting a little bit warmer; people deciding that we won the war and people being less interested in masking and social distancing; we’ve seen those numbers rise pretty substantially since early March.”

Dr. David Basel, Avera Health

COVID-19 hospital patients are now running on average seven years younger. Avera says only a couple admitted to the COVID-19 wing were fully vaccinated. About 10 to 20-percent of hospital patients had just one dose.

“But it’s the un-vaccinated population that’s getting admitted and having those issues. So until we can get those vaccinations we’re not going to be able to fully open back up and put this in our rearview mirror,” Dr. Basel said.

“I got the text message to be vaccinated two days before I went in, which is ironic in that aspect,” Oaks said.

While catching COVID-19 may provide Oaks with immunity for a time, he’s still planning to get the vaccine so he doesn’t have to go through anything like this again.

“My grandmother was a polio survivor; I’m a firm believer in vaccinations,” Oaks said.

Avera says it hasn’t had a single person hospitalized for complications due to the vaccine, showing that not only is it effective, but it’s also safe.

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