North Dakota has reported the most COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita in the nation.
That deadly spike has prompted some hospitals in the state to postpone elective surgeries and is reportedly putting an unsustainable strain on the availability of health care workers, according to state officials.
In a quickly scheduled media press conference Monday, Gov, Doug Burgum announced the health care system in the state is being over extended.
Monday alone, the state set a record in the number of active cases and added five more fatalities. That brought the number of fatalities to 644 since the pandemic began more than six months ago.
The governor said there are hundreds of traveling nurses working in North Dakota. “The nurses are hired through an agency. Our hospitals have to pay that agency sometimes an exorbitant amount of dollars. At one hospital, they are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a day.”
The governor said that some hospitals will be suspending elective surgeries of their own volition and others are initiating their surge plans.
He also announced the state has started a series of daily “stand up” meetings to formalize the coordination between the state and major health care systems.
“We also need our rural hospitals to participate because in some cases our surge plans may include step down transfers that move people out of the major hospitals back to what might be closer to home,” the governor said. “They may need a lesser degree of care that could be provided closer to home.”
The state had 3,560 active cases in the over-65 age group during the month of October. In early November, the state has had 1,593 positive cases in the same age group. That is already more cases than in the entire month of September.
The governor asked the public to follow more stringent health protocols voluntarily - including wearing a mask in public; physical distancing; hand hygiene; getting a flu shot; eliminate being maskless in crowds and limit all social gatherings to the immediate households.
The governor announced Monday that all counties in the state would be moved to the orange or ‘high risk’ level. “This would indicate the seriousness of the situation. The whole state is at high risk and all 53 counties are under the guidelines of the North Dakota Smart ReStart.”
The governor referred people to the state’s online resources for the latest information and guidelines for businesses and schools.
“It means events and gatherings should reduce attendance to 25 percent, with a cap of 50 people,” Burgum explained.