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Doctors: Stay home for Thanksgiving

Hospitals in the state have apparently not taken advantage of the option to use nurses who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic to care for COVID-19 patients.

During Gov. Doug Burgum’s weekly press briefing on the pandemic, Dr. Bill Heegard, president of Essentia Health West, described that option as another tool in the tool box to use if they have no other option. Trinity Health in Minot has also not been using nurses who have tested positive for COVID-19 but instead requires them to remain at home until their prescribed quarantine period has expired.

Burgum announced the policy nearly two weeks ago, which he said is an option for addressing staffing shortages and not a requirement. However, on Friday nurses with the ND Nurses Association held a press conference and were critical of the policy change and said asymptomatic carriers should not be called upon to work with COVID-19 patients.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved 60 Department of Defense nurses who will be deployed to hospitals in the state to help with COVID-19 patients beginning next week. An additional 60 nurses from a temporary staffing agency will also work at hospitals and nursing homes. There are 167 nurses from the state department of health already working in medical facilities. Some of those nurses will be working in Minot.

However, both Heegard and Vice President of the North Dakota Medical Association Dr. Josh Ranum, of West River Health Services in Hettinger, emphasized how bad the situation has gotten and urged North Dakotans not to travel for Thanksgiving and risk spreading the virus.

Hospitals are at or nearing capacity and there are critical staffing shortages at medical facilities.

As of Friday, there have been 818 deaths due to the coronavirus in North Dakota. There were 395 people hospitalized who have COVID-19 and 45 in intensive care as of Friday. just 10 percent of staffed hospital beds were available statewide.

In Ward County, there are 1,178 active cases of coronavirus, making it a hot spot in the state as well as worldwide.

By one estimate, as many as one in 1,000 North Dakotans have now died due to the coronavirus.

Burgum issued a statewide mask mandate last week along with new restrictions on businesses that are in effect through Dec. 14. The same order had called for all school activities to be halted through Dec. 14. He quickly amended that order after legislators received thousands of emails and phone calls from parents and students complaining about the requirement. The order was amended to allow practices to go forward with COVID-19 precautions, but not competitions.

There has also been resistance to the statewide mask mandate, with the Tioga school board voting last week not to enforce it, according to media reports, and the Stark County sheriff stating he would not issue citations to people who did not wear masks. According to the governor’s order, people who do not wear masks inside businesses and public buildings could be cited for an infraction and fined.

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