A1 A1
State lays out full vaccine priority list
  • Updated

The state’s Vaccination Ethics Committee has announced who will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine when the state moves to the next phases.

Health care workers statewide are in the process of vaccinating the people in Phase 1A, frontline health care workers, first responders and long-term care residents and staff.

“Vaccine distribution in North Dakota has gone well the first three weeks,” said Molly Howell, NDDoH Immunization Director. “Although vaccine supply continues to be very limited, North Dakotans should monitor messaging from their local health departments and health care providers for more information on when they are able to be vaccinated.”

The North Dakota COVID-19 Vaccination Ethics Committee includes a physician, ethicist, local public health representative, representative of the Department of Human Services and a representative of the Department of Health.

Though health care providers are still working through Phase 1A, the ethics committee has prioritized who will qualify for Phases 1B and 1C.

Phases 1B and 1C contain a mixture of those at high risk for complications, including people older than 75 and those with underlying health conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart conditions, high blood pressure and asthma, among others, people living in group settings and essential workers like teachers, child care workers and others.

NDDoH will announce when the state will move on to Phase 1B. It is anticipated that this may occur in mid-January. Depending on local vaccine acceptance and supply, it is possible that different areas of the state may be vaccinating within different priority levels.

In the future, vaccinefinder.org will be populated with more information about vaccine availability in different areas across North Dakota. Following Phase 1C, the state will move to Phase 2, which includes the general public.

Citizens wishing to be vaccinated during their phase can call their health care provider or local public health department to determine when they can receive their vaccination.

So far, the state has received about 35,000 doses of the vaccine and given out 22,241. Locally, there have been 409 doses given out in Williams County, 127 in McKenzie County and 58 in Divide County.

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine and phases of vaccination, visit health.nd.gov/covidvaccine.

First baby of 2021 born Saturday morning at CHI
  • Updated

For Seth McKee and Ann Lutnes, 2021 got off to an eventful start.

The Williston couple made a speedy trip across town and arrived at CHI St. Alexius Health Williston Medical Center around 5:45 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 2.

Their daughter, Mollyann Ruth Lutnes, arrived less than an hour later, at 6:36 a.m. She was the first baby born at CHI in 2021.

The birth went exactly as planned. Mollyann weighed 7 pounds, 11 ounces and was 21 inches long.

“It wasn’t me trying to deliver, so yes, it went fantastic,” McKee joked later on Saturday.

CHI St. Alexius Health Williston delivered 815 babies in 2020.

“2020 has been a year of unprecedented change, one thing that hasn’t changed is our dedication to delivering Williston’s future,” Leona Lambert, the director of obstetrics for the hospital, said. “The dedicated team of nurses exemplify the core values of our organization showing compassionate care to all those seeking our services. I am honored to lead an extraordinary group of nurses at CHI St Alexius Health Williston.”

Department of Health spreads awareness for Birth Defects Prevention Month
  • Updated

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month, and the North Dakota Department of Health is working to increase awareness of five essential tips to reduce the chance of having a baby with a birth defect.

Every four and a half minutes a baby is born with a birth defect in the United States, and can occur in any family regardless of race, ethnicity, health history or economic status. The Birth Defects Prevention Month campaign theme, “Best for You. Best for Baby.” aims to raise awareness of the roughly one in 33 babies born with a birth defect each year in North Dakota.

“Birth defects are a common cause of death in the first year of a baby’s life, but change happens through awareness,” explained Kimberly Hruby, Special Health Services Division Director at the NDDoH. “While we can’t prevent all birth defects, the following steps increase a woman’s chance of having a healthy baby.”

1. Take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day.Folic acid is very important because it can help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine.

2. Visit with your health care provider before stopping or starting any medicine.There are often benefits to continuing treatment throughout pregnancy. Discussing a treatment plan before a pregnancy allows a woman and her health care provider to weigh the pros and cons of all options to keep mom and baby as healthy as possible.

3. Get your vaccination up-to-date, including the flu shot.Having the right vaccinations, like the flu and Tdap vaccines, at the right time during pregnancy can help keep a woman and her baby healthy. Pregnant women should discuss COVID-19 vaccination with their health care provider.

4. Reach a healthy weight before becoming pregnant.

Obesity increases the risk for several serious birth defects and other pregnancy complications.

5. Avoid harmful substances during pregnancy, such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy and its exposure can cause major birth defects.

Smoking during pregnancy can cause dangerous chemicals to damage the placenta and/or reach the baby’s bloodstream. Additionally, the opioid addiction epidemic has led to a sharp increase in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, premature birth and drug withdrawal in developing babies.

Special Health Services is a division within the NDDoH that offers services for many children with birth defects. For more information about services available or about Birth Defects Prevention Month, contact Kimberly Hruby, NDDoH, at 701-328-4854 or krhruby@nd.gov

ND Attorney General announces end of investigation into sexual abuse by clergy
  • Updated

Issues with the statute of limitations on allegations mean no criminal charges will come from the state’s investigation into decades-old allegation of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

The investigation started about 18 months ago, when the Catholic Dioceses of Fargo and Bismarck released a list of 53 people who had been accused of sexual abuse in cases the diocese believed were substantiated.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem met with Bishops David Kagan and John Folda in June 2019, and asked to inspect all the records of the church relating to clergy abuse.

Stenehjem assigned four seasoned agents from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation to the cases. The dioceses cooperated with the Attorney General’s office in allowing the agents to review all complaints, records and files, including allegations for those not previously designated as “substantiated” by the Dioceses.

“I appreciate the cooperation we received from the bishops in Fargo and Bismarck, and that the dioceses gave the investigators full access to all of the files,” Stenehjem said.

Of the 53 people on the list, all but two had died before the criminal investigation began. One of those men, John Owens, died in October. The other, Norman Dukart, lives in Dickinson.

The agents reviewed the files and victim reports, conducted interviews of several victims, and pursued new leads.

“During their investigation, agents also pursued a lead that resulted in the identification of one new individual, Odo Muggli, as a likely perpetrator of child sexual abuse,” a news release about the investigation, reads. “Muggli is an Order of Saint Benedict priest at Assumption Abbey in Richardton, which is not under the jurisdiction of the dioceses.”

The allegations against Dukart and Muggli date back to the 1970s. The 2019 session of the legislature extended the statute of limitations for prosecution of sexual abuse crimes, however US Supreme Court rulings have held that once a statute of limitations has already expired, a criminal prosecution cannot be revived.

Assistant Attorneys General in the Criminal division of Stenehjem’s office reviewed the investigative reports and determined that probable cause existed that could have led to criminal charges being filed against the two surviving clergy for the alleged acts they committed. Unfortunately, the acts of abuse occurred so long ago that the statute of limitations has run. Therefore, neither Dukart nor Muggli can be charged criminally.

“I regret it will not be possible to have these men face their victims at a trial and face the potential consequences, but I hope it brings a measure of comfort to the victims that these crimes were eventually investigated,” said Stenehjem. “While we are confident we have reviewed all the files of the church, I remind anyone who has been a victim of clergy abuse that they can contact my office and we will review those allegations,” he continued.

Victims of clergy sexual abuse can submit a report to the Attorney General’s office via email to ndag@nd.gov or by leaving a message on the agency’s toll free tip line, 1-800-472-2185. Victims will need to provide their name and contact information so investigators can follow up.

Scam of the Week: 'Is this a video of you?' Nope, that’s a phish
  • Updated

It’s no secret that cybercriminals love social media. Bad guys use platforms like Facebook and Instagram to impersonate your real friends and followers. Using this disguise, the scammers try to trick you into sharing sensitive information.

Here’s a common scam that is regaining popularity: You receive a message from a friend or follower asking “Is this a video of you?”. The message includes a screenshot of a blacked-out or blurry video. If you click to watch the video, you will be taken to a social media look-a-like login page that is designed to steal your account credentials. If you enter your credentials here, the information will be sent directly to the bad guys and they’ll be able to use your social media account to scam anyone on your friends list.

Keep you and your friends safe by following these tips:

The simple message used in this scam sparks feelings of curiosity, concern, and urgency. Don’t let the bad guys toy with your emotions. Think before you click!

Be cautious of messages that are off-topic, unusual, or outlandish. Especially if the message includes a link.

Keep your social media accounts private and only accept friend or follow requests from people that you know and trust.