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Health leaders plead with ND residents to vaccinate themselves against COVID-19

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At a health department briefing with representatives from North Dakota hospitals, Governor Doug Burgum discussed growing concerns over health systems reaching capacity during this wave of the pandemic.

Governor Doug Burgum hosted a statewide briefing on COVID-19 with leaders of health systems in North Dakota to discuss the current conditions of the pandemic.

Burgum says while there is a surge happening now, we have an effective “tool in the toolbox” that we did not have last year, and that’s COVID-19 vaccines. Burgum says the vaccines are by and large keeping people out of hospitals, and alive.

"It is working - only 1 in 2,700 vaccinated citizens have been hospitalized for COVID-19, only 1 in nearly 16,000 vaccinated citizens have died. Vaccines are highly, highly effective at protecting against illness and protecting against mortality. When they protect against illness, they protect against hospitalization - and that preserves capacity."

North Dakota has a larger population of residents who have not taken vaccines. Dr. Janice Hamsher is Chief Nursing Officer with Altru, and says the virus is making its way through unvaccinated residents in Grand Forks County.

"Within Grand Forks County, the 14-day rolling positivity average is the highest that it's been since April, and there are no signs that it's going to go down. We are seeing high transmission rates, and if the trend continues, we're going to see higher rates of covid within our hospital."

Dr. Richard Vetter with Essentia Health in Fargo says capacity is becoming an issue, as more patients are needing care, and fewer providers are able to treat them.

"At the end of June, we were down to just one or two in-patients per day at Essentia Health Fargo. Over the past couple weeks, we've actually been close to ten percent of our in-patients are now covid positive. We've had to decline transfers from hospitals seeking higher levels of care. Nearly every day, we're at capacity, and we've also been working with health systems across the state and have appreciated the coordination to have bed availability on both the North Dakota and Minnesota side."

Dr. Jeffrey Sather is Chief of Medical Staff at Trinity Health in Minot. He says COVID is disrupting care for patients who do not have the virus. And he says they are no longer able to take patients from other areas needing care.

"Imagine going to visit your loved one because they have a heart issue, and the closest hospital capable to take care of that issue was 300 miles away. Covid is taking away choices for us in health care; it's taking away choices from patients, things like getting their procedures done, because those are getting postponed and canceled. It's choices such as, where do I get my care, and is it close to home, getting taken away from us. The choice is not ours, or the patient's, it's where can the care be accomplished?"

Governor Burgum says additional resources like travel nurses are no longer available to North Dakota, as many of them are currently serving other areas of the country. The health care leaders are urging residents to get vaccinated, and preparing to make difficult decisions in the several weeks ahead.

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