A look at how many South Dakotans are recovering from COVID-19

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Data is a driving force for the COVID-19 pandemic response, as the federal, state and local governments continue to make changes to policy based on data.

The White House announced a set of guidelines for states to decide when to “re-open” and states like Minnesota, have joined compacts to work together to get the economy running again, as the data begins to show some areas are passing their peaks.

South Dakota isn’t at that point, and Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) acknowledged that in her Thursday media briefing. The peak for the state is still a few weeks away.

Earlier on Thursday, KELOLAND News showed you how the difference between the Sioux Falls area, Beadle County and the rest of South Dakota are like three different worlds.

Now, we’re going more in-depth.

“Flattening the curve” is a term being used by public health officials to show that by social distancing and other community mitigations, they can slow down the rate of infections that would overwhelm the health system.

An area in South Dakota where you can see that happen is in Beadle County, where a deadly outbreak was one of the first hotspots. The interactive chart below looks at the cases on a per capita basis (like the chart above), to help normalize the information across different population sizes.

Instead of looking at the cases as they add up, we instead looked at active cases. This takes the number of cases and subtracts the number of deaths and recoveries.

To calculate the rest of South Dakota section, we removed both the populations and cases of Minnehaha, Lincoln and Beadle Counties to calculate the per capita rate of the rest of the state.

The curve in the term “flattening the curve” is based on hospitalizations, but the state hasn’t been reporting that information on a daily basis.

Another way to interpret the same information is just by looking at the actual case counts between the three different locations.

A few important technical notes: Recoveries by county weren’t reported until April 1. Deaths are counted on the day they are reported to the public, which can be up to five days after the death has occurred.

Both of these charts show Sioux Falls is rising fast. Much of that can be attributed to the Smithfield Plant hotspot. On Thursday, Noem said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had gone through the plant and will have a report in the coming days.

UPDATE: Sioux Falls area continues COVID-19 per capita surge past Chicago, comparable cities

With new information, we were able to update our look at the Sioux Falls area compared to some other regions across the country.

The City of Sioux Falls uses per capita data to compare to other cities for modeling. Earlier in the month officials were looking at similar cities: Fargo, N.D.; Omaha, Neb.; Des Moines, Iowa; Tallahassee, Fl.; and Dayton, Ohio.

KELOLAND News looked at the data in those areas and compared to Minnehaha and Lincoln counties, as well as some other counties in South Dakota and big cities like Chicago and Seattle.

The data shows an earlier surge in cases than Seattle or Chicago. As of Thursday, it has been 38 days since the first case of COVID-19 was detected in Minnehaha County. Meanwhile, in Cook County, where Chicago and several suburbs are located, it has been 84 days since the first positive case. The two cities with vastly different population sizes are nearly identical for cases per 100,000, but saw a spike almost one month apart.

As KELOLAND.com Original has reported, last weekend, Gov. Kristi Noem criticized on Twitter the use of looking at cities on a per capita basis.

“You’ve seen the headlines comparing us to Chicago or Seattle based on percentage increases,” Noem wrote. “But that doesn’t tell the most accurate story.”

“It’s more appropriate to look at data THIS WAY than it is to look at percentage increases,” she wrote.

Behind the math: The number of positive cases is divided by the population. Then you multiply that number by the average population size you want to look at. KELOLAND News used 100,000, as is consistent with other reporting.

Per capita is a common measure to compare locations with different populations.

Per capita is often used in financial reporting, including the state’s yearly annual financial report. Last month, Noem also cited two pandemic-related statistics that were per capita when it related to both testing and overall positive cases.

“Just a couple of facts for you,” Noem said in a March 31 media briefing. “We are 15th in the nation for testing, this includes all 50 states and Washington D.C. So while we are 15th in the percentage of our population that we’re testing per million, we are 45 in positives. That’s good news for us. It indicates that we are prepared for this marathon.”

On Thursday, Noem asked people to look at the number of hospitalizations vs. number of cases.

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