SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Three Sioux Falls doctors urged the public to pay attention to rising COVID-19 cases and called for mitigation measures to be embraced in school settings.
During a news conference Wednesday at the Washington Pavilion, Sanford Dr. Mike Wilde said everyone is committed to in-person learning.
“We want safe, logical mitigation strategies to avoid the pediatric illnesses and hospitalizations in our communities,” Wilde said. “That includes recommending all students and staff use masks and other mitigation strategies to protect our students and prevent the spread of the virus.”
Avera Dr. David Basel said during the summer everyone got used to being less concerned when a kid got cold or flu symptoms and they stopped seeking COVID-19 tests.
“It’s really important now, especially with your school-aged children, that if they do have any cough or cold symptoms that very likely could be COVID again,” Basel said. “A runny nose, sore throat is not necessary just a cold anymore. It very likely could be COVID and we need to get tested and to stay isolated until that test result comes back.”
Along with mitigation measures, Dr. Wilde stressed the importance of any eligible student or teacher to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“That is by far the best strategy for preventing your own COVID and the spread of COVID within close communities such as schools,” Dr. Wilde said. “The second advice is really your own protection, the distancing, the hygiene and the masking.”
According to the South Dakota Department of Health, 31 schools are dealing with three or more active COVID-19 cases, while 134 schools are dealing with one or two cases. Through the first three weeks, there’s been 433 total cases (339 students and 94 staff) in school settings.
Two South Dakota school districts, Mitchell and Yankton, recently changed COVID-19 protocols and added mask requirements for school settings.
For the Sioux Falls School District, masks are “encouraged” to be worn for students in pre-K through fifth grade “because students under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination.” For grades sixth through 12, masks are “encouraged” if not vaccinated.
Sioux Falls School District spokeswoman DeeAnn Konrad sent KELOLAND News this statement.
“The Sioux Falls School District continues to encourage the use of face coverings for children and adults, particularly for those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19. In addition, SFSD encourages all people to use personal mitigation strategies such as handwashing, healthy hygiene practices, and staying home when ill,” Konrad said in an emailed statement.
Konrad added the SFSD uses daily sanitizing and use of high-powered air filtration systems in all district buildings. She also stressed the schools can only control mitigation measures during school hours. Outside of school, she said the district encourages “parents/guardians to also consider COVID-19 protocols in the many other places they visit in our community when children are not in school.”
The Sioux Falls School Board held a meeting Wednesday discussing “Facilities Planning.”
Konrad said school leaders “continue to work collaboratively with our health care providers and we appreciate their reinforcement today of our Continue to Learn (C2L) Plan which was approved on Monday, August 9, 2021.”
Notifications of positive COVID-19 cases are sent to parents and guardians, while the state health department will send any “close contact” notifications.
The SFSD is holding COVID-19 vaccination clinics at three community centers — Kenny Anderson (Anne Sullivan Elementary) on Sept. 7 and Sept. 28, Oyate (Garfield Elementary) Sept. 8 and Sept. 29 and Kuehn (Oscar Howe Elementary) on Sept. 9 and Sept. 30.
“We are grateful for the medical professionals in our community and we encourage Sioux Falls families to look to their pediatricians and family physicians for important information and healthcare needs,” Konrad said in an emailed statement.