SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — New COVID-19 cases are falling in some parts of the country, leading some health experts to predict that the pandemic may be starting to slow down. But in South Dakota, health officials expect cases to continue to rise, especially in western South Dakota.

As of Tuesday there were 44 COVID-19 patients in Sanford’s ICU, and 32 of them were on ventilators. Dr. Mike Wilde with Sanford Health says the Delta Variant is spread easily, especially among those who are not vaccinated. And while other parts of the country may be talking about improvements, Wilde says our region typically plays catch up.

“In the upper Midwest traditionally with infectious illness like influenza, RSV and things like that we are kind of the last to get it and the last to have it leave. We’re more isolated up here, but our turn does come and we are certainly seeing some of that right now,” Dr. Wilde said.

Wilde says the hospitals are preparing for a possible increase in patients with other virus illnesses such as RSV and the flu, on top of those with severe COVID-19.

“Really pushing that influenza vaccine, the COVID vaccine but also looking at do we have the staff, the people in place to continue to provide that great care not only here in Sioux Falls but as close to home as possible,” said Dr. Wilde.

Wilde says one of the most inspiring things for him is seeing his staff rise to the occasion.

“Staff is working incredibly hard, they are absolutely tired but they are incredibly resilient health care really tends to attract a very special person.”

Wilde says the old days of toughing it out and going to work when you are sick, need to be over. Not only for your health but for your friends and coworkers as well.

The CDC says South Dakota remains an area of “high transmission” of COVID-19.

The state’s vaccination rate continues to be slow. According to the CDC, of the state’s entire population, nearly 60 percent of people have gotten at least one dose. Nearly 52 percent have completed their vaccinations.

Sanford employees also only have a few more weeks left to meet a vaccine mandate. The COVID-19 vaccine will be required by November first.