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Published on March 10, 2022

Avera Observes Second Anniversary of COVID-19 Pandemic

Today, Avera is observing the second anniversary of the COVID-19 virus within its 72,000-square-mile footprint. The first potential cases were identified on March 10, 2020.

Within that first month:

  • Avera had set up its 24-hour COVID hotline that put people in touch with testing, treatment and, in time, vaccination resources.
  • Avera’s laboratory was the first in the state to be verified by the South Dakota Department of Health for COVID testing.
  • Avera expanded virtual visits so patients could safely see their provider from home.

Also within the first days of the pandemic, Avera’s Information Technology team quickly made provisions for hundreds of employees to begin working from home.

“This was a time of amazing innovation for our health system. It’s not something we welcomed. But we stood up to the challenge and were very nimble in order to overcome obstacles and continue delivering the vital care people needed,” said Bob Sutton, President and CEO of Avera Health.

Throughout the past two years, Avera has taken part in groundbreaking research studies that contributed to a growing list of effective therapies for COVID-19, including monoclonal antibody treatments and antiviral medications.

Avera’s innovative Care Transitions program through Avera@Home allowed for thousands of COVID patients to be safely cared for at home, conserving hospital beds for the sickest patients. This included daily check-ins, virtual visits and oxygen therapy through home medical equipment.

The strong integration of Avera’s hospitals allowed the placement of patients in the best possible care setting for their particular case while leveling demand to ensure hospitals did not become overwhelmed.

“It’s been a difficult and challenging time for our medical providers and front-line caregivers. They are the true heroes of this story,” Sutton said. “They’ve seen a lot of severe illness and death. They rejoiced with those who recovered and went home. They grieved with families who lost a loved one. Numerous times, they stood in for family members who were not able to be there at end of life, or held a phone or tablet as families said their good-byes.”

When it came time for vaccination, Avera was a collaborator to help South Dakota be a leader in delivering “shots in arms,” effectively using allocations and prioritizing at-risk populations.

“Avera’s mission is one of caring for those who are most vulnerable. They were our top priority with vaccination, and this led to a very successful roll-out of vaccination in our state and region that undoubtedly saved lives,” said David Erickson, MD, Avera Chief Medical and Innovation Officer and Incident Commander for COVID-19.

During the past two years of the pandemic, Avera has:

  • Performed over 690,000 COVID-19 tests with over 88,000 positives
  • Delivered over 247,000 vaccinations
  • Given 15,700 various treatments for COVID
  • Hospitalized over 8,300 people
  • Cared for over 8,400 people in its specialized at-home monitoring program
  • Facilitated over 220,000 virtual visits between patients and their providers

“We’re seeing hope on the horizon,” Erickson said. Case numbers and hospitalizations are currently dropping. “We know there could be future waves of the virus, but we also recognize we’re better at managing this virus.” Therapeutics are becoming available in greater supply that can help prevent hospitalizations.

“We thank all our physicians, caregivers, leaders and employees for their tireless dedication during the pandemic. We also thank our local and state leaders as well as the general public for their collaboration toward the well-being of everyone,” Sutton said. “For Avera, the time has come for us to move from a COVID focus to our patient-centered care we’ve always offered.”

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Moving Health Forward

Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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