CHI St. Alexius Health Williston, Williams County Emergency Management and the Upper Missouri District Health Unit held a joint conference Monday to discuss the current state of COVID-19 in our area.
CHI St. Alexius Chief Medical Officer Dr. Wayne Anderson was joined by UMDHU Executive Officer Javayne Oyloe, Emergency Management Director Mike Smith and Col. Brad Bekkedahl of the North Dakota National Guard at Williston High School as another static testing event was set up in the school’s parking lot. The rising number of cases in the state prompted the organizations to get together to share information regarding testing capacity, COVID-19 precautions and upcoming testing events.
Oyloe stated that there were 77 active cases in Williams County as of Monday, July 27, and that 125 of the 202 cases had recovered. She added that the average positive test rate for the county is around four percent. Over the last three weeks, she said, almost 1,000 tests had been completed in Williams County. The age range the groups are focused on for testing is 20 to 29.
Anderson said CHI provides various testing options. Testing is done every day at the Respiratory Clinic, where any sick patients experiencing symptoms are cared for. Test results are sent to the North Dakota Department of Health for results. Anyone coming to the CHI for surgery or who is delivering a baby is required to have a COVID-19 test prior to their procedure, without exception.
“I explain it very simply, no test, no procedure.” Anderson said. “This is so that we can protect the patients because the risk of surgery is much greater if someone is COVID positive, but we also protect all the staff at the hospital; the nurses, the doctors the lab techs, the x-ray techs. It protects everybody.”
Additionally, the Occupational Health Clinic provides testing for those traveling to states that require it.
Smith said that the county’s plan for the next few weeks is to have a static testing site at Williston High School from 4 to 7 p.m. every Monday. Smith again reiterated the importance for those 20 to 29 years old to get tested, as that is the age group seeing the largest increase in cases. Once again, the importance of social distancing, wearing masks and continued hand-washing are what will help curb the continued increase, Oyloe stated. Anyone who has been or thinks they have been in close contact with someone who is positive should get tested and quarantine themselves until they have a negative test result. Close contact, Oyloe added, means being within six feet of an exposed person for 15 minutes or longer.
Anderson spoke on the importance of masks, and how CHI requires anyone entering the facility to wear one.
“It not only protects you from me, but it protects me from you and also protects all of the staff,” he explained. “It’s very important to take those precautions. (The mask) doesn’t have to be medical grade, the cloth masks that you see work perfectly fine. Is it ideal? No. What is? Nothing is. But just by having a mask on, you markedly diminish how far droplets spread.”
Oyloe mentioned that the organizations would be looking for community volunteers to take over for the National Guard to help set up and work at the testing events. Smith said it takes between 40 and 50 personnel to run the events. Col. Bekkedahl shared the National Guard’s role in the testing efforts.
“The National Guard is here to support and protect the public, working with local public health units and the State Department of Health and the Governor’s office and these agencies,” he said. “In the process, we are here to support the mission that’s ongoing at this point, and help to train and build up the civilian resources to tackle this on a long-term basis. We’re here to assist, to train and to make sure that these services provided are the best and longest lasting we can.”