North Dakota’s COVID-19 cases continue to rise as the Omicron variant surges across the state. Health care providers are warning residents that they must continue to be diligent as the state sees record high numbers.
This week confirmed cases of COVID in North Dakota set records for the highest number of cases in over a year. Before this month, the record was 2,278 cases on Nov. 14, 2020. As of Jan 19, there were 3,131 new positives in the state.
"This new variant, the Omicron variant, is extremely contagious." CHI Chief Medical Officer Dr. Wayne Anderson told the Williston Herald. "Much more contagious than the Delta variant, and unfortunately the vaccines aren’t quite as effective against this new variant, although they’re still not terrible, but that’s why we’re seeing such a significant spread, particularly among people who have had no vaccinations nor any prior exposure or symptomatic COVID."
Anderson noted that Williams County had the highest positivity rate in the state, with a 42 percent positivity rate as of Jan 19. There were 283 active positives as of Jan 19, and 121 new cases confirmed.
"It’s exploding rapidly," Anderson said. "It’s everywhere."
Anderson added that the rise in numbers was affecting the hospital, not just from the number of patients being admitted, but also by losing staff who have to quarantine due to exposure or infection. The influx of patients has created problems with getting more serious cases treated, Anderson noted, with hospitals having to call many other facilities in hopes of finding a room.
"It’s really making it very difficult to provide care here. There are only three ICU beds in facilities within the state, so if we have to transfer somebody we are calling multiple states away hoping to find a bed and unfortunately we’re not very successful at doing that, and nobody else is either." Anderson said. "So everything that people can do like getting vaccinated, wearing masks, will help us continue to provide care here."
Anderson said "common sense precautions" such as masking, hand-washing, social distancing and vaccinating will help keep people protected. He noted that Department of Health information showed that over time immunity for those who are vaccinated does wane, but added that those who appear to have the most immunity are individuals who are vaccinated with a booster but have been previously infected. Those who are immunocompromised may require a secondary booster as well, Anderson said.
CHI St. Alexius Health Williston’s walk-in clinic has been seeing around 80 people a day, with patients ranging from those with severe cases of COVID, those with mild cases, those who have been exposed, as well as many cases of influenza, RSV and strep. Clinic Manager Shelli Hayes said people should be mindful so that they do not contract multiple infections, such as COVID and influenza, which she said CHI’s clinic has seen many of.
"Those people when they come in, they’re very sick." Hayes said. "A lot of young kids we are seeing too, with a combination of both."
Anderson noted that medications to treat cases of COVID are in short supply across the country, making it even more vital for individuals to protect themselves.
"It’s in short supply in the state, it’s in short supply in the country; being in a small community and a small hospital, we’re not going to move to the head of the list regardless of how many people we have on the list," he said. "The reality is we don’t have enough medications to treat everybody who needs to be treated, and Williston is not unique in that."
Anderson said that CHI St. Alexius leaders meet twice a week for Incident Command reports to address issues and go over new information. Anderson said these weekly meetings are instrumental in keeping staff up-to-date on the latest guidelines and procedures regarding COVID-19 and the hospital’s response.
Mitch Melberg Reporting