SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Health officials in Sioux Falls want people to be mindful about high COVID-19 hospitalizations and transmission ahead of Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

All three health officials asked people to be thinking about decreasing COVID-19 transmission while gathering over the holidays. All three asked people to wear masks in crowded settings. You can watch the 45-minute news conference in the player above.

Dr. David Basel with Avera Health said in November, Avera had 125 patients per day and now, in December, it’s around 150 patients at any given time. Basel said the biggest difference from last year to this year is the hospitalizations for heart attacks, strokes and influenza patients are adding to the COVID-19 numbers.

Dr. Mike Wilde, with Sanford Health, said the health systems wanted to share a unified message. Wilde shared Sanford’s latest COVID-19 statistics — 224 COVID-19 patients, with 206 unvaccinated and of the 50 COVID-19 patients on ventilators, 48 are unvaccinated.

Basel said all of Avera’s 37 hospital buildings are running at full capacity. He said COVID-19 patients stay longer in the hospital than other patients. He called COVID-19 patients “sick, sick, sick.”

Lastly, Basel said the best gift you can give a healthcare worker for Christmas is protecting yourself from COVID-19.

Dr. Charles Chima, Sioux Falls Public Health Director, said he can’t emphasize enough how vaccinations are the way to beat the pandemic. He said more people have taken the COVID-19 vaccine than any other vaccine in history. He said it’s been the most scrutinized and monitored vaccine and it’s been proven safe and effective.

Chima said because of the COVID-19 vaccine, health systems aren’t in a worse spot than the same time last year. He said during the holidays, think about COVID-19 impacts from gatherings.

Chima said 62% of residents in Lincoln and Minnehaha have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. He said it is available for 5-year-olds and above. When asked about vaccine mandates, Chima said the goal with vaccinations is to protect people from severe illness and keep patients from stressing local hospitals.

Chima admitted vaccine mandates are one way to get enough people vaccinated, but said a “pragmatic approach” would likely work best in the community.

Dr. Basel said non-urgent surgeries are being delayed at Avera. If they can wait until Spring, they are doing that to free up beds. Dr. Wilde said Sanford continues to provide normal schedule but are closely watching it

Dr. Wilde said health systems across the Midwest are in similar COVID-stressed situations. He said it’s been exactly one year since Sanford Health gave out its first vaccine. He said the vaccine and booster gives the best protection against COVID-19.

8:38 a.m.

The latest developments with the COVID-19 pandemic in South Dakota will be the focus of a scheduled news conference Wednesday morning.

Officials with the City of Sioux Falls, Sanford and Avera plan to talk about a variety of topics related to COVID-19 including current impact on the health systems, holiday safety, omicron variant, vaccinations and boosters.

The news conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. CT at the Washington Pavilion.

KELOLAND News will livestream the discussion at that time. Look for a video player in this story to hear from Dr. Charles Chima, Public Health Director, City of Sioux Falls; Dr. Mike Wilde, Vice President Medical Officer, Sanford Health; and Dr. David Basel, Vice President of Clinical Quality, Avera Medical Group.