For Sherry Adams, there are some positive trends in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic in Bowman and the surrounding counties.
As the regional director of Southwestern District Health Unit, she arranged the recent testing (Dec.18) at the Bowman County Fairgrounds with the assistance of members of the National Guard.
She predicted that the spike in cases throughout the state in early December would fade in coming weeks as she watched more than 100 people be tested by the military personnel inside the Four Seasons building.
Even the promise of vaccines being available in upcoming months, helps Adams to be optimistic, she explained.
In the hall, pairs of masked military personnel handled the processing and testing for the people. “That is a pretty good number, I think. I am really happy. It is pretty close to the holidays and people are finding out if they are positive or negative. It could change their holiday plans.”
Not only the turnout for the event pleased Adams. The wind and cold weather also made the indoor testing location appropriate. The previous tests had been held with people staying in their cars and being tested in the parking lot.
“Usually, we come to the county when we are asked,” she explained. “It is not like a set schedule right now. With vaccinations coming, that will help too. Basically, what the community needs, we’ll try to work around their schedule.”
The military personnel working on the testing in Bowman has been pretty consistent, Adams said. “While there is a few new people, it has been a pretty consistent group. They have rotated a few, off and on. They are from all over North Dakota.”
The units have been extended on FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) orders through March, she added. “So they will be able to assist with the vaccination process.
“They have been a huge help,” Adams added.
The testing will remain indoors and will stay that way when the vaccinations are added in the future, she explained.
When it comes to vaccinations, the process will be done in tiers. “First, it will be healthcare workers, then first responders, then long-term care, staff and residents of long-term care. They might prioritize those who are age 65 and older with health conditions because they are at a higher risk. There is an ethics committee at the state that helps by looking at the CDC (Center for Disease Control) guidelines to come up with what works for North Dakota.
“As we get the vaccines out through those tiers ... I am hoping it will be open to the public sometime in spring,” she said.
The recent pandemic positives trend downward in both the state and the region is something Adams attributes to more North Dakotans being careful -- maybe.
“It could be a combination of things. We might be ending our first wave of COVID. We were kind of hit hard. If you look at the East and West coasts, they are kind of being hit again, so they are getting into another wave.
“Masking has obviously helped. Social distancing helps. Not doing big gatherings -- those have all absolutely helped,” she said.
But people will have to wait until after the holidays in mid-January to see exactly how successful the state and the region has been with the pandemic. “If the cases start going up again...,” she stopped with her voice trailing off.
Looking back, she said that people were pretty good about how they handled it during the Thanksgiving holiday. “But Christmas and New Years will be the one to watch.
“So, we’ll see, if we are still pretty low a couple of weeks after January 1, I will be much happier,” she said. “The key will be for people to still get tested. People do not want to get tested as much anymore. They are just waiting. But it is going to be very important to be tested after the holidays to see if they picked it up somewhere,” she added.
She did say that the rate of influenza in the state has dropped, something she attributed to a by-product of the masking and social distancing, as well as people washing their hands more.