Fargo-Moorhead hospitals, schools struggle to find subs for staff out sick with COVID-19

All school districts in the metro area are having trouble filling teaching spots because substitute teachers are in short supply.

Hospital and school staff unable to work due to COVID-19 infections are adding to the increased burden both professions are experiencing.
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FARGO — With active COVID-19 cases more than doubling in North Dakota this past week, hospitals and schools are wrestling with staff that are out with coronavirus infections.

Nurse Jen Johnson of Hillsboro had just returned from a trip with good friends when she noticed she wasn't feeling well.

"I took a nap and after that, then I woke up and I had the body aches, and some of the congestion had started at that point," Johnson said.

A quick test confirmed she was infected. While she's vaccinated and boosted, she is one of a number of nurses in the region who have to stay home from clinics or hospitals because of COVID-19.

"The omicron virus is just really going crazy right now, they're saying, and I guess I'm classic with the congestion, head cold and sinus stuff," Johnson said.


Sanford Health Vice President of Nursing Theresa Larson said 90 staff members were absent at their clinics and hospitals. She said she knows we have a ways to go before this current jump in local numbers starts to decline.

At Essentia Health, 31 nurses didn't come to work on Thursday. Like Sanford, Essentia is getting help from outside.

"We're bringing in a lot of travel (nurses) — everybody is," Essentia West president Dr. Bill Heegaard said. "We have great nurses who are stepping up."

Impacting schools

The impact of COVID-19 on the metro area workforce is also hitting schools.

The Moorhead Area Public School District tells WDAY News that 119 teachers were absent on Monday. That's double the number of teacher absences in October.

Fargo Public Schools had 96 teachers out Thursday, and West Fargo Public Schools had 86.

All districts in the metro area are having trouble filling those teaching spots because substitute teachers are in short supply.

Grand Forks public schools reports that 98 teachers were out with COVID-19 last week.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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