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Recent spike in COVID cases expected, health official says

Stutsman County has 297 active cases of coronavirus and a positivity rate of 14.6%, according to information released Monday, Jan. 24, from the North Dakota Department of Health. Stutsman County had 13 new positive cases.

Shae Lynn Johnson COVID Update.jpg
Shae Lynn Johnson, registered nurse, enters the room of a COVID-19 patient at Jamestown Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Department.
Contributed / Jamestown Regional Medical Center

A recent spike in coronavirus cases in Stutsman County was expected with omicron becoming the dominant variant mixed with the holiday season and more indoor gatherings, according to Kim Lee, director of nursing at Central Valley Health District.

“It (omicron) spreads much more easily,” Lee said. “ … I would say in the last two to three weeks, we have made a complete shift. Not that there isn’t delta out there but it is mostly omicron.”

Lee said the North Dakota Department of Health is anticipating a peak in COVID cases in the next couple of weeks before the numbers start going down again.

“What we hear from the health department is that we haven’t peaked yet for this variant (omicron),” she said.

Stutsman County has 297 active cases of coronavirus and a positivity rate of 14.6%, according to information released Monday, Jan. 24, from the North Dakota Department of Health. Stutsman County had 13 new positive cases reported Monday.

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But Lee said the number is not 100% accurate.

“We know that because people can do at-home tests, and they don’t have to report them to the state,” she said. “So our numbers are probably going to be lower than what is out there for the disease.”

Mike Delfs, pesident and CEO of Jamestown Regional Medical Center, said the concern for JRMC is when the recent spike will level off. JRMC is rated for a maximum capacity of 25 patients.

He said just over half of the patients in JRMC are hospitalized because they have COVID. He said JRMC does not actively track if a patient with COVID who is hospitalized was fully vaccinated or not.

“For us treating a COVID patient is treating a COVID patient,” he said.

JRMC was one of the first hospitals in North Dakota to create and publish a surge plan when COVID first hit in 2020, he said. He said JRMC figured out how it would accommodate more patients, where to put extra patients and which staff members would take care of them.

“We have a surge plan that can go up to 64 patients if needed,” he said.

The surge plan was implemented in the fall of 2020, deactivated in spring 2021 and reimplemented in fall 2021 while JRMC staff meets daily.

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Delfs said JRMC has not gone beyond its 25-bed capacity.

“It’s good (that hasn't happened) for a whole number of things,” he said. “When you expand to 64 beds, you’ve changed a lot of our care settings. Your staffing becomes completely different.”

The hospital is ready for a surge in hospitalizations, said Katie Ryan-Anderson, marketing manager at JRMC.

“Whether the peak comes in two weeks or four weeks or six weeks or if we have another variant and another increase in cases, JRMC and the health care community in the region is ready to care for the individuals here,” she said.

Preventing the spread

Lee said it is recommended to wear a mask and to social distance as much as possible.

“And stay home if you are sick. That’s a huge thing,” she said. “I think a lot of people are still going out and about going to work if they are sick and that’s why it keeps spreading.”

She also said being fully vaccinated and getting the booster help reduce the chances of getting hospitalized or death.

The vaccination rate in Stutsman County for individuals 12 and older is 61.9% for those who received at least one dose and 60.3% for those who received two doses, according to the health department.

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The vaccination rate in the county for individuals 65 and older is 87.1% for those who received at least one dose and 83.4% for those who received two doses.

In Stutsman County more than 44% of residents 12 and older have received the booster dose, and 71.2% of residents 65 and older have received a booster dose.

Lee said Central Valley Health has seen more people getting tested for COVID. Last week, she said more than 200 people were tested Tuesday, about 120 on Wednesday and about 180 on Thursday.

“Our lines are quite long. We are asking for patience from people right now,” she said. “We did pull more staff over there to try to help with it right now.”

She said it is important for people to get tested so they know if they have COVID and can follow the appropriate guidance for it. Individuals can get tested from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Jamestown Civic Center.

JRMC does administer COVID tests as well. Delfs said individuals come in through the emergency department and will get tested if they are symptomatic and describe the symptoms of COVID.

He said on occasion someone will go to JRMC’s emergency department to take a test if the individual has not gotten results back from a previous test.

“That certainly adds to the stress of the organization and the staff when they are testing people who have already been tested,” he said. “It doesn’t happen real often, but it does happen occasionally.”

JRMC supplies, staff

Delfs said JRMC has supplies although there are a few treatments – monoclonal or new treatments specifically for omicron – that the hospital has no control in getting because they come from the federal government and are distributed through the state.

JRMC has plenty of staff to take care of its patients, he said.

“But I would also say that because of all the things our staff has been through the last several years, this is incredibly stressful,” he said. “It’s a stressful time to be working in health care. We are really proud and grateful for our staff. There are times they feel a little stretched thin just because when you get patients, and after a while seeing COVID patients over and over, it kind of wears on you a bit, but they are doing well.”

Ryan-Anderson said there are days when the emergency department is overloaded with individuals from car accidents, drug overdoses and COVID cases, among others. She said some emergency department staff get to work around 6:30 to 7 a.m. and don’t get a chance to eat lunch.

“They know how to take care of patients and put patients first,” she said.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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