The United States is the country with the most cases of COVID-19 in the world. Worldwide the total number of cases is 10.4 million people infected and over 500,000 deaths; in the United States alone there are 2.6 million cases with 128,000 deaths. In South Dakota we have had 6,764 cases of COVID-19 reported with 91 deaths; in Lawrence County 19 COVID-19 cases to date; and in Meade County 47 cases. Recent study has suggested that the actual infection rates are 10 times the numbers reported.
What could happen to our communities with the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally set to occur in just a little over a month?
Let’s make the conservative assumptions, for a moment, that the rate of positive cases among people that will attend the Rally is 0.1 to 1%. This is a very conservative estimate noting that the rate of positive test results currently in Florida exceeds 10%. Let’s also assume that 100,000 people will attend the Rally (down from an all-time high of almost 800,000 people in 2015). That means that 10-100 people will become ill during the Rally and some (if not most) will require medical care. This many acutely ill people during the Rally could quickly overwhelm our local hospitals and urgent care facilities.
Then let’s assume that the infected people attending the Rally (the majority of whom will not realize they are sick) spread the virus to only one or two residents of Lawrence and Meade counties during the Rally. This estimate is also very conservative but predicts that 20-200 residents will remain behind once the Rally is over. This rate of spread virtually guarantees that our local health care services, including the local ICU facilities will be at capacity for the rest of the year.
All of this is occurring in the context of improvements in the treatment of COVID-19. While there are hopes for a vaccine in the first quarter of 2021, there is already emerging data that anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce the mortality rate by over 35% among the sickest patients. These drugs include corticosteroids (data from studies of dexamethasone can be safely extrapolated to prednisone, for example), statins (drugs used to control high cholesterol) and vitamin D. Many other drugs, including drugs that prevent replication of the virus, are under development. There is good reason to hope!
Dr. John Andrews, “Doc John” of Lead, has a doctorate in virology, immunology, and microbiology who, after a career in developing prescription drugs, is now working on drug development to target COVID-19. He will be offering columns every two weeks about the progress of finding a vaccine for the virus.
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