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COVID-19 in South Dakota: How many waves have we seen?

Sioux Falls bartender goes two rounds with COVID-19

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — COVID-19 is currently hitting South Dakota hard, with cases rising and hospitals struggling under the weight of increased cases and staff shortages. Obviously this is the upward slope of a new wave of the virus that we are currently experiencing, but what wave is this exactly?

According to Dr. David Erickson, Chief Medical and Innovation Officer of Avera Health, that’s a tough question to answer.

“I think most people would define these waves as a type of wave,” Erickson said when asked what exactly a wave is. “Just a significant increase in the incidence of disease in the population.”

“Sometimes, to be honest, it’s hard to keep up with what wave we’re in,” Erickson added.

Overall, we’ve had multiple waves of COVID-19 so far, Erickson says. “Three, four or five, depending on how you count them.”

As Erickson counts them, we’ve had three waves of COVID-19.

“I think we’ve had several,” he said. “We had the first wave, we had the delta wave and now we’re in the Omicron wave. We have clearly had several waves here.”

Erickson spoke more about the challenge of determining how many waves we’ve been dealing with right now. “[Its] probably almost more personal point of view really,” he said. “Some people count them a little differently. We could count one wave as a single wave and some might have peaked like that – went down a little bit – and came back up; some may count that as two, others consider it one.”

This can be illustrated by looking at trend data over time, such as the chart below showing cases over time since January 2020.

CDC

Some can look at this and see 3 to 4 waves, while others can see 8 or more. This is most apparent when looking at the period around November 2020 – January 2021. While the line of 7-day averages shows three distinct peaks, which some might see as three waves, others can see the overall increase in the number of cases and describe that period as the culmination of a single wave.

“I think so many people have an opinion about that that you’re going to hear a little difference of opinion about the wave and how many we are and where we are.”

Part of the reason Erickson sites are hard to pinpoint what wave we’re in right now is the fact that COVID-19 affects different parts of the country at different times.

“New York started their ommicron wave earlier than we did,” he said. “They’re showing signs that that wave may be peaking — where we’re still rising.”

However you choose to define a wave, it’s clear that the current one is a big one.

“Obviously, with the omicron variant, you see a significantly higher transmission rate,” Erickson said. “If you look at the number of cases across the country, with the delta wave at its peak we had about 250,000 cases per day; right now with the ommicron we have 750,000 cases per day.”

Despite the numbers currently being seen, Erickson skipped a note of optimism. “I think many of the lore and leading experts now believe that this will most likely be the last wave, moving from a pandemic to more [of] an endemic where the virus is still circulating in the population, but you don’t have these big spikes or waves that we’ve seen.”

That optimism was also tempered with a warning:

“With the omicron variant and the rate of transmission, it will find all the people who are not vaccinated, and it will also probably find 30-40% of the people who are vaccinated and boosted initially – the difference is that those who being unvaccinated has a 10x higher risk of hospitalization and 10x higher risk of death.”

Erickson said the other things we learned is that the vaccines for COVID-19 are safe and masks work.