SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs is reaching out to South Dakota Veterans this week to talk about COVID-19. Secretary Robert Wilkie says the VA is beginning the return to normal operations across the country and KELOLAND Vets need to be ready.
South Dakota Veterans have answered the call in a variety of honorable ways according to Secretary Robert Wilkie. He says that’s part of the reason why he’s been to the state two times in five months. His most recent visit was just before the pandemic.
“South Dakota is a place where you don’t have to explain military service to anyone. If you look at the people of the state, especially our Native Veterans, you have a place where so many people have served and continue to serve,” Wilkie said.
Wilkie says it’s important to pay attention to Veterans outside of the eastern seaboard.
“We’re going to be looking at returning to more face-to-face encounters with our medical people and also return to elective surgery. It’s important. We need to get our Veterans back in our system,” Wilkie said.
The VA takes care of 9.5 million Vets in 170 hospitals and 1,200 clinics. Wilkie says morale among staff is high.
“We never ran out of supplies. We never fell below two weeks of supplies. Now, did everyone in our system have 2-3 changes of PPE every day, no. We couldn’t do that because the entire country needed access to that equipment,” Wilkie said.
As for any promising treatments moving forward…
“We’ve seen outstanding results, certainly from the plasma and Remdesivir and some from the Hydroxy(cloroquine). We’re doing as many things as we can, not only to give Veterans hope but to stem the tide of this,” Wilkie said.
Wilkie says roughly 1,000 Veterans have died during the pandemic. The Secretary says he plans to visit Sioux Falls in the fall and will be working with local leaders to enhance the Veterans Home in Hot Springs.