With six days before the holiday, two physicians made a pitch to North Dakotans to stay home and not hold large gatherings.
Dr. Bill Heegaard, the president of Essentia Health’s West Region, gave a personal example — he has a large family and a father who is 93, but this year, it’s going to only be Heegard, his wife and their two children for Thanksgiving.
“I am asking you to be really smart,” he said. “It’s not just about you. It’s about not infecting someone you love, or someone someone else loves or someone who’s vulnerable.”
Dr. Josh Ranum with the West River Regional Medical Center said he wanted people to think about the future when deciding what to do.
“Please sacrifice this holiday season so you can have future holiday seasons,” he said.
Both physicians spoke at Gov. Doug Burgum’s weekly news conference about the COVID-19 pandemic. On Friday, the number of active cases again fell in the state, to 9,915, but Burgum pointed out how dire the situation had become.
For example, North Dakota added 25,000 new COVID-19 cases in November, more than the record of more than 21,000 set in October.
“And we still have 10 days left in November,” Burgum said.
The risk is that as more cases come in, they will begin to overwhelm the state’s hospitals.
“We know that we may not have enough staffed beds for all North Dakotans who need higher levels of care,” Burgum said.
The state announced Thursday that 60 U.S. Air Force nurses were being assigned to North Dakota.
The personnel, part of a Department of Defense COVID-19 response operation, are primarily nurses, including critical care nurses. They will split up into multiple specialty teams to support at least six hospitals in four cities: Trinity Hospital in Minot, CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck, Sanford Medical Center in Bismarck, Essential Health in Fargo, Sanford Medical Center in Fargo and Altru Health System in Grand Forks.
Ranum, who spoke about what his clinic, located in Hettinger, has experienced, said taking steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 is part of every person’s larger responsibility to society. Arguments about masks being a matter of personal freedom don’t hold when a person’s actions affect others.
“My mask protects you and your mask protects me,” he said.
Heegaard, too, stressed the importance of masks. He said he’d read medical journal articles about masks and they are effective, even if they aren’t perfect.
But wearing a mask, washing your hands regularly and staying six feet from others all can help slow the spread of the disease.
“These measures will help reign in the out-of-control prairie fire COVID has become in our state,” Heegaard said.
Burgum also addressed how schools are handling the pandemic. Jeffrey Thake, superintendent of Williston Public School District No. 1, said an early decision to require masks made a major difference.
“In early September, our district mandated face coverings and started to notice a sharp reduction in close-contact quarantine,” Thake said. “We are able to dramatically reduce the spread of COVID in our schools through the use of masks.