Avera Medical Group and Sanford Health officials say they’re continuing to see the number of active COVID-19 cases fall.
Officials with the healthcare systems gave their latest pandemic update Tuesday during a press conference in Sioux Falls to address the current state of COVID-19 in hospitals. Mike Wilde, the vice president medical officer at Sanford Health, said officials have had 10 consecutive days where the number of active cases has fallen.
Currently there are 20,824 active infections in South Dakota, according to the Department of Health.
Here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s update:
1. February has already been deadly
At Avera, David Basel, the vice president of clinical quality, said the peak of hospitalizations was during the last week of January and cases have started to drop since.
“Things have leveled off and pulled back a little bit and certainly are better than they were a couple of weeks ago,” Basel said.
But Basel added the first week of February was one of the deadliest weeks for COVID-19 patients in Avera’s intensive care unit, with over 25 patients dying.
A total of 2,697 South Dakotans have died with COVID-19, according to the DOH.
2. COVID-19 vaccines are coming for children younger than 6
During the next few weeks, the United States Food and Drug Administration will be holding meetings to discuss lowering the age of vaccination for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Basel said. Children as young as 6 months old could become eligible for the vaccine.
The FDA advisory committee will look at data from clinical trials before making a recommendation which will then be passed on to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Basel said to expect more information about early childhood vaccination to come at about the third week of February.
3. COVID-19 will become endemic
If COVID-19 cases continue to drop during the next few months, Basel says COVID-19 will become more endemic and hospitals won’t be as overwhelmed.
“I think certain things are certainly going to change in the future,” he said, adding people will be more aware of their COVID-19 symptoms like people are aware of when they’re feeling sick during flu season.
“As a public, we’re going to have to watch and know how much COVID is circulating in our communities at any given time,” Basel said.
4. Importance of mental health
As COVID-19 cases go up in hospitals, Wilde said, so do the number of mental health issues coming in to be treated.
“It also involves substance misuse and it involves violence toward staff,” Wilde said. “We’re seeing some fairly significant impact in our hospital currently with our staff and we really want to try to protect those who are trying to help you.
Wilde and Basel encouraged anyone who is abusing substances, having difficultly engaging in life and having thoughts of harming themselves to reach out to someone immediately who can help.
Avera has seen an increase in out-patient visits for crisis evaluations and in-patient hospitalizations, Basel said.
5. Going on spring vacation? Get a vaccine to avoid a ruined trip
Wilde encouraged anyone going on vacation in the coming months to pay attention to the CDC travel guidelines, which include wearing a mask on a flight, and knowing if your destination requires testing.
“I’m aware people have had to cancel vacations due to positive travel tests. Your chances of a positive test are reduced by being vaccinated and boosted,” Wilde said.