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Health Systems Predict COVID Surge Through September

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Dr. Mike Wilde is the vice president medical officer for Sanford Health in Sioux Falls.

The state’s three major hospital systems are sounding the alarm on rapidly rising COVID 19 infections. 

Sioux Falls health officials believe the area is four weeks from peak infections. The health system in Rapid City is receiving help from the national guard for more testing. 

Sanford and Avera anticipate peak COVID cases in late September to early October. They’re calling on community members to escalate COVID safety measures. That means get vaccinated, wear a mask and keep social distance. 

The lion's share of current patients in the intensive care units and on ventilators are among the unvaccinated. 

Dr. Mike Wilde is the vice president medical officer for Sanford Health in Sioux Falls. 

Wilde says staff at Sanford is heavily strained, especially those who’ve been responding to COVID for some time. 

“You can imagine the energy that they’ve devoted to this and continue to devote to this, and the best way you can help that is by taking care of yourself. Getting vaccinated. Influencing those around you to get vaccinated,” Wilde says. “That is the absolute best way that we can take the top off of this peak.” 

Meanwhile, nine national guard soldiers are assisting Monument Health in western South Dakota with testing COVID symptomatic people.  

Emily Leech is the lab director for Monument Health. She says testing demand is up 150 percent from early July—up to 500 tests a day now. She says that increase follows the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which officials estimate brought around half a million people to the region. 

“In the month of July, we saw a steady increase in volumes,” Leech says. “But after the Sturgis Rally, we saw a significant increase in overall testing needs for the communities.” 

COVID patients are filling intensive care units at Monument Health beyond capacity. It’s now placing two people in some rooms and halting all non-essential surgeries. 

While hospitals are seeing an influx of patients, the Department of Health is crediting 68 COVID cases tied to the rally. 

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.