Dakota

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Coronavirus cases in North Dakota reach record high

The number of confirmed, active cases of the novel coronavirus in North Dakota has surged, reaching the highest levels since the deadly virus was first identified in the Midwestern state. 

As of Monday, North Dakota reported 8,440 active cases of COVID-19, the highest amount since the state began tracking cases in March. The high includes an estimated 975 newly confirmed active cases, raising the state’s daily positivity rate to 12.62%, per state health data. 

The news comes after North Dakota health officials in late October asked residents to conduct their own contact tracing if they have tested positive for COVID-19 as a surge in cases of the novel coronavirus has left contact tracers in the state overwhelmed and strapped for resources. (iStock)

The news comes after North Dakota health officials in late October asked residents to conduct their own contact tracing if they have tested positive for COVID-19 as a surge in cases of the novel coronavirus has left contact tracers in the state overwhelmed and strapped for resources. (iStock)

Overall, the state has reported more than 46,000 cases of the deadly virus and some 540 deaths. 

The news comes after North Dakota health officials in late October asked residents to conduct their own contact tracing if they have tested positive for COVID-19 as a surge in cases has left contact tracers in the state overwhelmed and strapped for resources. 

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In a news release, the North Dakota Department of Health announced it added some 400 contact tracers and case investigators over the summer to help “quickly trace and quarantine close contacts, allowing contact tracing to continue long after many other states had to suspend their efforts.” 

But a “sharp increase” in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks “put increased pressure on contact tracing teams at the state and local level, leading to tracing delays and a backlog of positive cases that have yet to be assigned to a case investigator,” they said at the time. 

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Officials also noted that it will take longer for those who have been tested for the novel coronavirus to learn their results. Patients will be notified 72 hours from when the lab confirms their result compared to the past wait time of 24 hours. 

“In addition, significant community spread of coronavirus and a lack of compliance with close contact investigations have diminished the effectiveness of contact tracing,” health officials said at the time. 

CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE 

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South Dakota sees record virus hospitalizations, cases

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Hospitalizations from COVID-19 in South Dakota reached new heights for the fourth straight day on Wednesday.

The number of daily new cases also set a record, with 1,270 people testing positive for the virus. The virus has surged in the state and region, sending South Dakota to the nation’s second-worst ranking in new cases per capita over the last two weeks. Johns Hopkins researchers report that one out of roughly every 77 people in the state has tested positive in the last two weeks.

The wave of cases has resulted in 412 people who are currently hospitalized with the virus. Health officials also reported nine new deaths. October has become the state’s deadliest month of the pandemic, with 189 deaths so far.


South Dakota health officials attempted to offer some hope to the state’s virus outlook, saying they will be ready by the middle of next month to distribute coronavirus vaccinations. But it is not clear when coronavirus vaccinations will receive regulatory approval and actually arrive in the state.

Health experts are hoping that several candidates for vaccines could be ready for distribution by year’s end, maybe sooner. President Donald Trump has pushed for a faster timeline.

South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said she is following federal instructions to have a vaccine distribution system in place by Nov. 15.

“If the vaccine shows up at our doorstep on that day, it will be getting out to folks immediately,” she said.

South Dakota’s plan prioritizes health care workers and people who are vulnerable to the virus before vaccines are made widely available to the public.

The Food and Drug Administration has pledged that any vaccine it approves will meet clear standards for its safety and effectiveness.

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South Dakota medical groups promote masks, countering Noem

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota’s largest medical organizations on Tuesday launched a joint effort to promote mask-wearing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as the state suffers through one of the nation’s worst outbreaks, a move that countered Gov. Kristi Noem’s position of casting doubt on the efficacy of wearing face coverings in public.

As the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 have multiplied in recent weeks, the Republican governor has tried to downplay the severity of the virus, highlighting that most people don’t die from COVID-19. Noem, who has staked out a reputation for keeping her state free from federal government mandates to stem the virus’ spread, has repeatedly countered the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations to wear face coverings in public.

Shortly after the Department of Health reported that the number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 broke records for the third straight day on Tuesday, people who represent doctors, nurses, hospitals, school administrators and businesses huddled to promote mask-wearing, social distancing and handwashing. They warned the state’s hospitals could face a tipping point in their ability to care for COVID-19 patients.

“Masking is a simple act that each one of us can participate in and it can save lives,” said Dr. Benjamin Aaker, the president of the South Dakota State Medical Association. “If you mask, that life could be your mother, father, your friend, or even your own.”

Noem’s spokesman Ian Fury said the governor does not oppose all mask-wearing, but is trying to promote a “nuanced” approach to masks. She has said it is appropriate to wear masks around people with symptoms of COVID-19 or in hospitals. But she has not encouraged people to wear face coverings in public, as recommended by the CDC.


October has already become the state’s deadliest during the pandemic, with 152 people dying. Health officials have tallied 375 total deaths from COVID-19.

The groups calling for mask-wearing detailed the upheaval caused by virus infections — from school administrators struggling to conduct contract tracing to businesses worried about the economic impacts of widespread outbreaks.

The state’s prisons have seen the greatest surge in cases in recent weeks. Roughly one out of every three inmates statewide have an active infection.

The state has reported the nation’s second-highest number of new cases per capita over the last two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. There were 1,226 new cases per 100,000 people, meaning that one in roughly every 82 people tested positive. The Department of Health reported 989 new cases on Tuesday.

The rise in hospitalizations has forced the state’s two largest hospital systems — Sanford Health and Avera Health — to alter the logistics of some elective procedures to free up space for the influx of COVID-19 patients.

There were 395 people hospitalized by COVID-19 statewide, according to the Department of Health. About 34% of general-care hospital beds and 38% of Intensive Care Units statewide remained available on Tuesday.

Health care providers will hit an unmanageable load of

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Noem says South Dakota is doing ‘good’ as virus surges

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Gov. Kristi Noem has insisted South Dakota is excelling in its handling of the pandemic, even though the state surpassed 9,000 active coronavirus cases on Thursday and matched an all-time high for deaths reported in a day.

The state ranks second in the country in new infections per capita over the last two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University data. There were about 1,036 new cases per 100,000 people in South Dakota, meaning that about one in every 97 people in the state has tested positive for the virus in the last two weeks. Health officials on Thursday also reported an all-time high of 973 new cases.

But the Republican governor has used her refusal to issue mandates to vault to nationwide relevance among conservatives. She told Fox News on Wednesday night: “We’re doing really good in South Dakota. We’re managing COVID-19, but also our economy is thriving.”

Health officials reported Thursday that the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 reached a record high with 355 in hospitals, including 75 in Intensive Care Units. The state matched its record of 14 deaths in a day.

Noem has said COVID-19 hospitalizations account for a relatively small percentage of total hospital capacity and that hospitals are still handling an influx of patients for other health issues. Currently, 35% of general-care hospital beds and 36% of Intensive Care Units remain open, according to the Department of Health.


However, both of the state’s largest hospital systems have altered the logistics of some elective procedures to free up space and staff to handle the virus surge. Without a statewide mask mandate in place, the hospital systems have also urged people to wear masks when they are around people outside of their households.

The hospital systems got support on that message from Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken, who earlier this week put it bluntly: “Wear a dang mask.”

But Noem has made it clear she will not institute a mask requirement and doubts the usefulness of the recommendation from the nation’s top health experts that widespread masking helps prevent infections from spreading.

In an opinion article published Wednesday, the governor pointed to doctors who say it is not clear how effective masks are in preventing infections. She said places with mask mandates have still seen case growth, but conceded that masks are “appropriate” in hospitals or when caring for someone with COVID-19 symptoms.

Noem’s opinion piece also included a link to an article on masks from a conservative medical group called Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. The group has a history of staking out unorthodox positions on medical issues, including calling mass vaccinations “equivalent to human experimentation” and opposing Medicare, the government-funded health insurance for older people.

More recently, the group has s poken out against lockdowns to prevent the spread of the virus and encouraged treating COVID-19 with hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug that President Donald Trump pushed before the Food and Drug Administration revoked its emergency-use authorization. Noem also

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Rural Midwest Hospitals Struggling to Handle Virus Surge | South Dakota News

By STEPHEN GROVES, Associated Press

WESSINGTON SPRINGS, S.D. (AP) — Rural Jerauld County in South Dakota didn’t see a single case of the coronavirus for more than two months stretching from June to August. But over the last two weeks, its rate of new cases per person soared to one of the highest in the nation.

“All of a sudden it hit, and as it does, it just exploded,” said Dr. Tom Dean, one of just three doctors who work in the county.

As the brunt of the virus has blown into the Upper Midwest and northern Plains, the severity of outbreaks in rural communities has come into focus. Doctors and health officials in small towns worry that infections may overwhelm communities with limited medical resources. And many say they are still running up against attitudes on wearing masks that have hardened along political lines and a false notion that rural areas are immune to widespread infections.

Dean took to writing a column in the local weekly newspaper, the True Dakotan, to offer his guidance. In recent weeks, he’s watched as one in roughly every 37 people in his county has tested positive for the virus.

It ripped through the nursing home in Wessington Springs where both his parents lived, killing his father. The community’s six deaths may appear minimal compared with thousands who have died in cities, but they have propelled the county of about 2,000 people to a death rate roughly four times higher than the nationwide rate.

Rural counties across Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana sit among the top in the nation for new cases per capita over the last two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. In counties with just a few thousand people, the number of cases per capita can soar with even a small outbreak — and the toll hits close to home in tight-knit towns.

“One or two people with infections can really cause a large impact when you have one grocery store or gas station,” said Misty Rudebusch, the medical director at a network of rural health clinics in South Dakota called Horizon Health Care. “There is such a ripple effect.”

Wessington Springs is a hub for the generations of farmers and ranchers that work the surrounding land. Residents send their children to the same schoolhouse they attended and have preserved cultural offerings like a Shakespeare garden and opera house.

They trust Dean, who for 42 years has tended to everything from broken bones to high blood pressure. When a patient needs a higher level of care, the family physician usually depends on a transfer to a hospital 130 miles (209 kilometers) away.

As cases surge, hospitals in rural communities are having trouble finding beds. A recent request to transfer a “not desperately ill, but pretty” sick COVID-19 patient was denied for several days, until the patient’s condition had worsened, Dean said.

“We’re proud of what we got, but it’s been a struggle,” he said of the 16-bed hospital.

The

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