11 months of the coronavirus in Stutsman County
Recap of the coronavirus pandemic in Stutsman County.
The first mention of the coronavirus in a locally written article of The Jamestown Sun came on Jan. 31. It soon became the major topic of dozens of articles over the last 11 months.
At the end of January, the normal flu season was the concern with rising numbers of people infected. Coronavirus was mentioned only in that six cases had been confirmed in the United States at that time, and none were suspected in North Dakota.
"People in North Dakota are generally considered low risk," said Levi Schlosser, influenza surveillance coordinator for the North Dakota Department of Health, at the time.
March and April
The first coronavirus case in North Dakota was recorded on March 11 in Ward County. The first case in Stutsman County came on April 8 with the diagnosis of a woman in her 60s.
By that time, health precautions were already being put in place in Stutsman County and across North Dakota.
In March, schools across North Dakota had transitioned to distance learning for kindergarten through high school students. On March 19, Gov. Doug Burgum ordered bars and restaurants closed in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus. At the time there were 19 confirmed cases in North Dakota with 11 of those in Burleigh County.
In an effort to help the hospitality industry, the Jamestown City Council approved an emergency measure allowing the delivery of alcoholic beverages allowing bars and restaurants that were closed to continue to do some business as takeout or delivery.
On March 24, Jamestown Regional Medical Center announced a surge plan to increase the facility's capacity from its normal 25 beds to about 65 and the postponement of elective surgeries at the hospital. The surge plan stayed on the shelf until the local numbers of COVID-19 cases increased in November.
May and June
North Dakota businesses that had previously been closed under coronavirus pandemic precautions were allowed to reopen under new regulations on May 1. The regulations restricted capacity and required social distancing by limiting the number of tables and the number of people who could be at each table, along with other restrictions.
The number of active cases of COVID-19 in Stutsman County had peaked at seven in early May and then declined to two by the end of the month before climbing to a new peak of 27 later in June.
The peak in June also brought the first death attributed to COVID-19 in Stutsman County.
On June 21, the death of a man in his 60s in Stutsman County was announced. It was the 77th death attributed to COVID-19 in North Dakota at the time.
June also marked the return to normal for some services in the area. The Jamestown Police Department resumed taking fingerprints for background checks and the U.S. Department of Agriculture offices opened for face-to-face meetings with farmers, for example.
Some nursing homes resumed in-person visitations, with restrictions, for families of residents in mid-June.
During June, Central Valley Health District, with the assistance of the National Guard and other agencies, began mass testing events at the Stutsman County Fairgrounds. Officials gathered samples from 562 individuals at that event of which two tested positive for the coronavirus.
July and August
At the beginning of July, Stutsman County had two positive cases of COVID-19. The tally peaked at 21 cases about the first of August before declining to one case in the middle of August. However, by the end of August, Stutsman County had nearly 100 active cases.
Stutsman County celebrated the Fourth of July without the Stutsman County Fair or many of the other usual holiday events.
One event that did continue, outdoors and with plenty of room to social distance, was the Downtown Arts Market in Jamestown that held its first event on July 9. North Dakota's low levels of coronavirus at the time prompted some people to have a "safe-cation" in the state, according to one Forum News Service Story published July 4.
Even as numbers grew, the area tried to plan for more normal conditions.
The Jamestown Public School Board approved plans to start classes on Aug. 27 with elementary school students in class five days per week and middle school and high school students in a hybrid plan combining in-class education with distance learning.
On Aug. 30, Stutsman County reported a new high for positive tests for the coronavirus in a single day at 28.
Robin Iszler, unit administrator of Central Valley Heath District, said in an Aug. 30 story, "The more you're exposed to the virus during a period of time the more likely you're going to contract the disease."
At the end of August, the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce announced a program where purchases of gift cards issued by local businesses were matched as an aid to the struggling economy.
September and October
There were about 100 active cases of COVID-19 in Stutsman County at the beginning of September and nearly 200 at the end of October. However, there was a dip to 24 active cases near the end of September between those two peaks.
The increasing number of COVID-19 cases extended beyond Stutsman County to the rural counties of the area. An Oct. 7 article noted hospitals in Emmons, Logan, McIntosh, Dickey and LaMoure counties were at or near capacity with coronavirus cases. This followed a report from Oct. 4 that there were 112 individuals in North Dakota hospitals for COVID-19.
High infection and hospitalization rates resulted in North Dakota becoming a coronavirus pandemic hotspot in the nation.
But there were some signs of normalcy returning.
On Oct. 12, Jamestown Public Schools announced the return to full classroom education at all grade levels.
Later in October, Burgum increased the risk level to high for 16 counties including Stutsman. This tightened some restrictions on businesses but did little to slow the intensifying pandemic.
By Oct. 21, Forum News Service reported the prevalence of coronavirus in North Dakota was higher than any country in the world.
On Oct. 28, one of the most notable local deaths attributed to COVID-19 was reported with the passing of Monsignor Jeffrey Wald, 56, at JRMC. The same day, Jamestown Mayor Dwaine Heinrich announced an emergency order placing a mask mandate in place in Jamestown.
On Oct. 29, Jamestown High School announced it was forfeiting its playoff football game because of coronavirus cases in its team and coaching staff.
November and December
Stutsman County began November with about 200 active cases of the coronavirus and is at 114 cases as of Dec. 29.
In between those points was a peak of 534 cases.
On Nov. 12, Stutsman County reported a then-record 128 new cases of the coronavirus. The same day, JRMC announced it was implementing the surge plan it announced back in March because of the number of hospitalized cases.
On Nov. 13, Burgum announced a statewide mask mandate. The same day, the death toll in North Dakota passed 700 people.
On Nov. 17 the death toll surpassed 769 people in North Dakota or one person for every 1,000 residents.
On Nov. 24, North Dakota announced a record one-day death toll of 37 people.
In mid-November, the number of active cases reached 534 in Stutsman County with a large number confirmed in the James River Correctional Center.
Cases fell off quickly possibly as a result of mask mandates and other precautions. Over about a two-week period, the number of active cases dropped from 534 to about 150 in Stutsman County with that number continuing to decline.
The first vaccines were distributed in Stutsman County on Dec. 22. The vaccination process is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
According to the North Dakota Department of Health, Stutsman County has had 3,099 positive tests reported since the start of the pandemic in March. This is 15% of the county's population. There have been 70 deaths reported in Stutsman County for a death rate of 0.3%