Letters to the Editor for Nov. 22: 

Thanks for USD’s leadership

I want to applaud USD’s leadership in recommending students finish out their Fall semester courses remotely. Several college campuses in the state have illustrated that the spread of COVID-19 is abundant and concerning, and I am incredibly thankful that universities like USD are giving students the option to learn from home.

As a college student and substitute teacher, I understand how difficult it is to transition from in-person to online education and vice versa. Some students fare better one way versus the other, but I want to remind our communities of how fortunate we are to have these options.

Right now, many nations and regions of the world are struggling to contain and fight this epidemic, forcing even more children to end their education so they can instead work and help keep their families afloat. They do not have the technology to learn online or the resources to keep schools open. Additionally, they are facing increased risks of contracting COVID-19, Tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.

So while the back and forth of educational settings might be frustrating to students and parents in South Dakota, remember that millions do not have any option for education right now.

Jessa Bartsch, Rapid City

Act now, or the COVID fire will get further out of hand

The South Dakota Dept of Health website is misleading regarding the number of available ICU beds in our hospitals. The DOH lists 18.1% available adult ICU beds as of the morning of Nov. 19, suggesting that SD has plenty of capacity for more COVID patients.

However, most SD hospitals’ ICUs are not capable of caring for critically ill COVID patients needing a ventilator, dialysis, etc. They were never intended nor are they equipped to care for such patients. If there are so many ICU beds available why are our three largest hospitals (Avera, Sanford and Monument) diverting patients, straining to rapidly increase ICU beds and equipment and struggling to increase ICU staff?

Smaller hospitals are having difficulty finding a center to transfer critically ill patients. Both small and large hospital staff are severely stressed both physically and emotionally. Governor Noem says she is focused on hospital capacity which she claims is adequate, but in reality, ICU availability to care for our sickest patients is extremely limited and all beds in our larger hospitals are filled.

Furthermore, shouldn’t the emphasis be on preventing hospitalization by preventing community spread in the first place? Please listen to the experts and get the facts to guide your decisions. Do not listen to politicians’ rhetoric with manipulated statistics used to promote a political agenda. The facts are that this deadly virus is extremely communicable.

As of Nov. 19 a.m. SD is second only to ND in both number of cases and death rate for the last 7 days, more than double most other states. We should and can do much better than this. The best way to avoid community spread is to keep your distance, avoid gatherings beyond your immediate family.

Masks are not 100% effective but definitely help in preventing spread to others. Multiple studies have confirmed the benefit of universal masking at the hospital, community and state levels. Two studies demonstrated reductions in mortality.

For those of you concerned about the economic impact a formal economic analysis showed increasing universal masking by 15% could reduce national GDP loss from COVID by $1 trillion. All of these studies are documented on the CDC website for those interested. The vaccines certainly are promising but they will probably not be available for all until next March/April.

Unfortunately we are only getting misleading information from our state government rather than actual leadership. Time is running out and it’s up to all of us. Please do your part to put out the fire now before all we have left is ashes.

Robert Santella, MD, Sioux Falls

We’re still all in this together

Over the last week, we have received good reason to be hopeful about COVID-19 in 2021. Both Pfizer and Moderna shared preliminary trial data that their vaccines have shown very high efficacy rates. This is excellent news – a rare bright spot in this year we have had.  I think we all have good reason to believe our state of affairs will be much, much better by this time next year. To have a vaccine available in just over a year from the time this novel virus was identified will truly be an amazing feat of modern science.

But I write today to remind you that COVID-19 in South Dakota is currently very bad.  The things we feared back in the spring – having too many sick patients than our ICU’s and hospitals can safely care for – seem to be very near. And the huge numbers of new infections reported in the last 2 weeks are yet to manifest in our numbers for hospitalizations and deaths.

We need your help, and we need it now. With recent updates on vaccines, hope is on the horizon, but we can expect it to be another 4-6 months before a vaccine supply reaches the masses. In the meantime, if we don’t make a change in our trend of infection rates, we could stand to lose a lot more South Dakotans, and further to put a strain on our nurses, respiratory therapists, physicians, and other hospital workers. And haven’t we asked enough of them this year

Let’s reimplement the plan to stay home unless necessary. Let’s wear our masks when we do need to be out.  Let’s find ways to support our local businesses safely during this crucial time.  And let’s reinvigorate our sense of common purpose to get through this.  Please think hard about how your family will celebrate the holidays this year: Can you make your circle a little smaller? Are there some traditions that can wait until 2021

Remember that this sneaky virus can spread amongst people who have no symptoms.  Rates in our communities are so high right now, we should assume that everyone is a potential carrier and act accordingly. Most importantly, we should be encouraged that we won’t have to do this forever.  Help is coming, so stay strong!

Kelly Evans-Hullinger, MD, Brookings

Are we really all in this together?

“We are all in this together” is the slogan that unites us as we tackle COVID-19. But are we truly together? I often hear people say that they are healthy and have no need to wear a mask or social distance because it is their civil right not to do so. I am happy for their good health and pray that it continues, at the same time I wonder if they consider the civil rights of others who also have an “inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Words inscribed in our constitution. Are we really ready to cancel these words that undergird our democracy because we are inconvenienced?

I’m thinking of the rights of people that we all know and love: a grandmother who had fresh chocolate chip cookies waiting for family visits and who is now in the vulnerable group because of age; the father who always reads his children a bedtime story before tucking them into bed and worries about the effect of Covid-19 because of his diabetes; the neighbor down the street fighting cancer; and the teenager with an autoimmune disease. Do we truly want to tell these people to stay at home because we don’t want to protect their health by following a few simple guidelines? Guidelines that will allow them to shop with local merchants, or watch their child play in a concert or athletic event.

This is not a Republican thing nor a Democratic thing, it is not a white thing nor a back thing. It is an American ideal. We all have civil rights and we must respect each other. We are talking months until we have a vaccine or to protect us. Not that long compared to the years and the real sacrifices that our men and women in the arm forces fought to protect our rights. We can do this; we are all in this together.

Barbara Johnson, Sioux Falls

Homefront sacrifices needed

As a healthcare worker continuing to fight the battle against Covid itself and the equally frustrating battle against Covid misinformation, I can’t help but draw parallels between Covid and WWI and WWII.

This time medical workers are the soldiers fighting the battle. During WWI and WWII, the homefront efforts made by average Americans who pulled together to support their troops made both a material difference to the war efforts and to the morale of the troops risking themselves in the trenches. They planted victory gardens, they rationed many things, they bought war bonds, they started new jobs to support the war effort. They couldn’t see the devastation happening on another continent but they didn’t doubt that it was happening and could agree that stopping the enemy decimating people like and unlike themselves was a common goal. They were willing to sacrifice little freedoms at the time for the freedom they hoped would still be available to all Americans and around the globe at the end of the war.

I can draw parallels between the fight then and now and yet the response is so different. The “soldiers” in this fight are begging for strong, clear support from leaders and for the homefront to make the simple sacrifices of wearing a mask, remaining socially distanced, and staying home if you don’t need to be out, and yet these simple, small acts are seen as too burdensome and too much of an infringement of rights for people today.

Many of those refusing to make the tiniest sacrifice to help their communities in the name of “freedom”, refusing to help their healthcare soldiers in this fight today, would certainly claim that they would have sacrificed greatly had they been alive during WWI and WWII. However, the reality is that if we had needed to rely on their efforts during WWI or WWII we would have lost…like we are losing the Covid fight now.

We don’t want you to have to see the inside of an ICU to know that the battle is raging and we need your help. To those who believe that mask wearing won’t make a difference, it will.

Even if you don’t believe the science showing that universal masking reduces spread, know that seeing a visual representation of a community’s collective effort provides hope and support for your bone-tired, soul-weary healthcare workers.

Please wear a mask, keep your distance, and stay home when possible. We need your homefront efforts to win this ongoing battle.

Courtney Keith, MD, Sioux Falls

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