South Dakota projects peak COVID-19 cases in June
Between 265,000 and 600,000 cases possible
PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota COVID-19 infections are expected to peak in mid-June, with 265,000 to 600,000 people becoming infected based on the state’s early April projections.
Governor Kristi Noem, along with state and healthcare officials broke down projected numbers in a press conference Friday afternoon. Noem says all state agencies and the state’s three major healthcare systems – Monument, Avera, and Sanford Health – endorsed the projections.
COVID-19’s impact in the state is based on a number of assumptions. Earlier projections in March that were based on zero mitigation, showed the state’s number of coronavirus patients would peak in late April, and exceed the capacity of hospitals in the state. Since then, as residents maintain the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines to social distance and maintain good hygiene as they are currently doing, the state assumes the peak will occur in June.
“The more mitigation, the longer it will take for us to get through this current situation we have,” said Noem. Even after reaching peak infection, Noem adds South Dakotans may have to maintain this current lifestyle into August in order to prevent the healthcare systems in the state from becoming overwhelmed.
State Epidemiologist Dr. Joshua Clayton says 80 percent of people in the state who get the virus will show either mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.
“Now we understand that more people could be infected who have no symptoms whatsoever, now we’re talking 30 to 70 percent of the population can get this virus,” said Noem. That percentage of the state’s roughly 880,000 population means 265,000 to 600,000 people are projected to get the virus.
The state says five percent people who become infected may require hospital beds, translating to about 5,000 beds at the projected June peak. Assuming 26 percent of the hospitalized need ventilators, healthcare systems in the state would collectively need 1,300 for the peak as well.
Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon says the state is currently not equipped to handle the peak number of estimated patients but is working towards that goal. She says the state currently has 525 ventilators or related equipment available between healthcare systems and the state’s stockpile but requests are into the Federal Emergency Management Agency for additional resources.
To meet the needs of potentially 5,000 patients, Noem announced Thursday the National Guard will be standing up facilities in Rapid City and Sioux Falls. Each facility would provide 100 beds, each with the capability of ventilator use. Malsam-Rysdon says the guard will be doing an area assessment in both cities in the coming days “to find facilities for a hospital type setting.”
The Health Secretary said Thursday the beds will be in place prior to the projected June peak.
With the stretched-out time frame South Dakotans face, other impacts continue to be assessed. Public schools are currently set to remain closed through May 1. But with infections projected to continue into August, Noem says the state will reevaluate the plan for schools next week.
The South Dakota Department of Tourism is also working to prepare for what the summer months may look like, given a potential lack of tourists.
Noem stressed Friday the numbers provided are fluid, depend on multiple factors, and are changing day-to-day. Decisions by the state are driven by the facts, and residents should continue to do their part in following the CDC’s guidelines.
The South Dakota Department of Health reported 22 new COVID-19 cases Friday morning, bringing the state’s total since March 10 to 187. 69 people have recovered from the virus.