What’s actually causing COVID-19 deaths?


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Everyday we hear an update on the amount of people in the state who have died due to COVID-19.

More than 400 people in South Dakota have died due to COVID-19. The month of October has been the deadliest month in the state since the pandemic first hit.

“I think what we’re seeing now is a drastic increase in cases in both the Dakotas. And as I have said, very often, a small percentage of a large number is still a large number,” Dr. Wendell Hoffman said.

Sanford Health infectious disease Dr. Wendell Hoffman says the major cause of death in COVID-19 patients stems from what is being called a ‘cytokine storm’.

“It’s an explosion of inflammatory mediators that draw fluids and congestion into the lungs and make it impossible for, for them increasingly to breathe and, and impossible to ventilate,” Hoffman said.

He says the direct attack of the virus on the lungs leads to inflammation and blood clotting in the blood vessels in the lungs, leading to congestion and difficulty oxygenating.

“And that is the final mechanism of death in the great majority of these patients,” Hoffman said.

It’s not just those at high risk of complications or death he says who should be taking precautions.
Even those who aren’t hospitalized are at risk of long term health issues.

“We’re seeing unbelievable numbers and, there’s lots of people who are sick and who will develop what we call these post COVID syndromes. Which in some cases can be very debilitating,” Hoffman said.

He says that could include PTSD, depression and according to the CDC, heart damage.

“I think that what we’re seeing now with the post COVID situation is a large majority of people who continue to suffer for weeks and months,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman says the silver lining is the outstanding critical care patients are receiving, and the therapeutics including steroids and antivirals. But until a vaccine is widely available he says mitigation strategies are crucial.

“I think there’s, there’s lots of hope and… but I think all of this illustrates the very sobering responsibility that we all have in South Dakota, to change our behaviors,” Hoffman said.

To stay updated on the current COVID numbers in the state, click here.

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KELOLAND News is covering the Coronavirus outbreak. We have created a guide to everything you need to know to prepare. We also have the latest stories from across the globe feeding into this page.