BISMARCK — North Dakota on Monday, Oct. 18, implored people with health care experience to reach out to their local hospitals as the state is experiencing an "unprecedented" staffing need in health care facilities.

Hospitals statewide are experiencing severe staffing shortages. An increased number of residents are seeking health care services, and with COVID-19 patients putting additional burden on hospitals, state and hospital officials are now asking for assistance.

“North Dakota is experiencing an urgent need for more staff in our health care facilities,” State Health Officer Nizar Wehbi said in a news release on Monday. “Staffing shortages can have negative effects on patient care and limits the capacity of hospitals and health care facilities. We are asking for volunteers and anyone with experience in the health care field to join or rejoin the workforce.”

In an effort to entice nurses to work in North Dakota health care facilities, the Department of Health extended its waiver for temporary nurse aid registration to the end of the year. The State Board of Respiratory Care is also offering a six-month respiratory therapist license for people currently licensed in another state.

North Dakota is encouraging residents to reach out to their local hospitals and health care facilities to see how they can help.

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"Even if you are only available for 4 to 8 hours a week, consider making the call and helping during this time of urgent need for staffing," the Department of Health said on Monday.

On Monday, the North Dakota Department of Health reported the state's overall COVID-19 death toll is now 1,680 residents — an increase of 11 North Dakotans compared to Friday, Oct. 15.

North Dakota has reported 56 COVID-19 deaths in October so far.

The following are COVID-19 case rates, deaths and hospitalizations according to the Department of Health as of Monday, Oct. 18.

Statewide case rates

  • NEW CASES REPORTED MONDAY, OCT. 18: 199
  • ACTIVE CASES*: 3,210
  • DAILY POSITIVITY RATE: 11.46%
  • TOTAL KNOWN CASES THROUGHOUT PANDEMIC: 141,683
  • TOTAL RECOVERED THROUGHOUT PANDEMIC: 136,793

*The Department of Health often amends the number of active cases after they are first reported.

Cass County, which encompasses Fargo, had the most known active cases on Monday with 599 cases. Burleigh County, which includes Bismarck, had 489 active cases, and Stark County, which includes Dickinson, had 328.

Adolescents under 20 years of age encompassed 28% of North Dakota's active COVID-19 cases. As of Monday, children under 12, an age group that is not yet eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, accounted for 554 of the state's active cases.

The state's 14-day rolling average positivity rate was 7.46% as of Sunday, Oct. 17.

Hospitalizations, deaths

  • ACTIVE HOSPITALIZATIONS: 191

  • DEATHS: 0

  • TOTAL DEATHS: 1,680

North Dakota did not report any additional deaths on Monday; however, an an additional 11 were reported over the weekend.

As of Sunday, Oct. 17, there were 13 available staffed ICU beds statewide, according to a Department of Health database. Bismarck's two hospitals had zero staffed ICU beds available and Fargo's three hospitals had a total of nine open staffed ICU beds.

Vaccinations

  • FIRST DOSE ADMINISTERED*: 373,874 (56.1% of population ages 12 and up)

  • FULL VACCINE COVERAGE*: 348,729 (52.4% of population ages 12 and up)

*These figures come from the state's vaccine dashboard, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes vaccinations performed at federal sites, reports slightly higher vaccination rates.

As of Sunday, more than 32,000 booster doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to North Dakotans, said Molly Howell, state immunization manager.

North Dakota still ranks in the bottom 10 in vaccination rate in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The Department of Health encourages individuals to get information about vaccines at www.health.nd.gov/covidvaccinelocator.

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Readers can reach reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at mgriffith@forumcomm.com.