Avera St. Luke’s moves to next step of surge plan

ABERDEEN, S.D. (Press Release) – As COVID-19 cases surge across the Midwest, Avera is renewing a public education campaign to encourage everyone to wear protective face masks to slow the spread of the virus.

“As the pandemic has progressed over the past several months, scientific evidence for the use of masks has strengthened,” said Jawad Nazir, MD, infectious disease specialist with Avera Medical Group. “Masks along with other measures such as social distancing are the primary way to halt this virus.”

Avera’s latest campaign to promote masks uses the headline, “Wear because you care.”

“Wearing a mask is a key way that we can all protect each other. It’s all about loving your neighbor and looking out for one another. It’s something we can all do,” said Kevin Post, DO, Avera Medical Group Chief Medical Officer.

Avera health experts recommend that people wear masks whenever they are in a public setting or with people other than those they live with. “Masks are more effective if everyone wears one,” Nazir added.

By slowing the spread of COVID-19, you can also help decrease the pressure on our local health care workers. Avera facilities across the region are implementing surge measures in response to an increase in patients with COVID-19.

Avera St. Luke’s is moving to the next phase of its surge plan. This includes:

• Opening up our fourth floor to increase our inpatient capabilities.
• Redeploying staff to our areas of greatest need.
• Postponing elective inpatient surgeries on a week by week basis.

Avera St. Luke’s also previously implemented two COVID-specific patient areas. This ensures that patients with COVID are not intermingled with non-COVID patients.

While the number of COVID-19 inpatients varies daily, Avera St. Luke’s continue to see an increase in both cases and people needing hospitalization. Typically, as the state sees the positive number of COVID-19 tests increase, hospitalizations also increase in the one to two weeks following.

Across its footprint, Avera is taking measures to reduce planned surgeries and clinic appointments as needed, especially if the surgeries will require inpatient hospital stays. This will allow us to redeploy clinic staff to areas of greatest need. Over the next few days and weeks, patients may receive phone calls to reschedule upcoming appointments.

“We want to continue to care for the needs of our community and so people should still come to us with illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and other chronic issues. We ask for understanding and patience,” said Todd Forkel, President and CEO at Avera St. Luke’s Hospital.

Surge plans will look different than they did in the spring. Last time when Avera facilities postponed surgeries, it was largely to conserve personal protective equipment. Since then, our supply chain has worked hard to expand our reserves.

Hospital bed capacity changes on a regular basis. It is extremely fluid, and Avera has people who are experts at this process.

People may naturally be asking, “What can I do to help?” Here’s what experts recommend:

• Wear a mask and encourage your family and friends to do the same.
• Practice social distancing – do not stand or sit closer than 6 feet from someone else for longer
than 15 minutes.
• Practice good hand hygiene – wash hands often and use hand sanitizer.
• Sanitize frequently touched surfaces.
• Stay home when you’re sick and keep your children home when they are sick.
• Donate plasma. If you have had COVID-19 and have recovered, you can donate plasma to help
people who are currently sick. To learn more call 605-504-3154 or email
• Do not go in person to your clinic without calling first. You can also call 1-877-AT-AVERA (1-877-
282-8372) or fill out our online screening form at Avera.org/covid-19.

“These measures might seem insignificant, but they are vitally important toward our efforts to decrease the numbers of people who become severely ill or die from this virus. We ask everyone to please do your part – it will help save lives. It’s absolutely critical as we wait to see how this surge takes shape in our area,” Forkel said.