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More North Dakota hospitals announce vaccine mandates as state's active COVID-19 cases near 1,000

Hospitalizations have also increased steadily in recent weeks, climbing from 10 in late July to 38 on Friday. Just over 50% of North Dakota's 12 and older population has received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, far behind the national average for that metric.

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Altru Sign

BISMARCK — More hospital systems in North Dakota announced that they will mandate COVID-19 vaccines for their employees this week as the more contagious delta variant of the virus helped push statewide active positives to nearly 1,000 on Friday, Aug. 13.

Virus hospitalizations have also started to climb in recent weeks, from just 10 in late July to Friday's count of 38. North Dakota's growing outbreak comes as states in some other parts of the country, particularly the Southeast, have seen the more contagious delta variant of the virus spread rapidly through unvaccinated communities. Hospitals in some states with rising delta prevalence have struggled to accommodate surges.

CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck and Altru Health System in Grand Forks both announced this week that they will require employees to be fully vaccinated against the virus by November deadlines. Both hospitals have offered exemptions from the requirement for some medical and religious reasons.

"As health care providers we have a responsibility to help end this pandemic and protect our patients, our colleagues, and those in our communities," CHI St. Alexius said in a statement on the decision released Thursday. "Requiring vaccination for our teams is critical to maintaining a safe care environment. Medical and religious exemptions will be available for those who qualify."

Altru spokeswoman Annie Bonzer said that hospital cannot provide an accurate census of how many of its workers have received a dose of the vaccine, stating that they are waiting on some employees to report their immunization status. A CHI St. Alexius spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a request for their vaccination numbers.

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Sanford Health, the region's largest healthcare provider, became the first hospital in the state to mandate employee vaccinations last month. Essentia Health, which serves patients in Fargo as well as in Minnesota, announced a mandate last week .

Trinity Health in Minot has not implemented a vaccine requirement for its employees, according to a statement Friday from hospital vice president Randy Schwan, making it the only major healthcare provider in North Dakota without a mandate.

Just over 50% of North Dakota's 12 and older population has received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, far behind the national average for that metric. Nationally, 69.2% of people ages 12 and older have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Following are the North Dakota Department of Health COVID-19 case rates, deaths, hospitalizations and vaccinations as of Friday. Because all data is preliminary, some numbers and totals may change from one day to the next.

Vaccinations

  • FIRST DOSE ADMINISTERED: 333,886 (50.6% of population ages 12 and up)

  • COMPLETED SERIES (2 DOSES): 310,485 (47.1% of population ages 12 and up)

The health department urges residents 12 and older to get vaccinated and seek information at www.health.nd.gov/covidvaccinelocator .

Statewide case rates

  • NEW CASES: 959
  • ACTIVE CASES AS OF JULY 31: 885
  • TOTAL CASES: 113,063
  • TOTAL RECOVERED: 110,559

North Dakota's active cases increased by 276 over the last week, marking the fourth consecutive week of growth. In the last seven days, the state has registered nearly 900 new positive tests. Cass County, which includes Fargo, leads the state with 246 active cases. Burleigh County, which includes Bismarck, has 147 active cases, and Ward County, which includes Minot, has 134.
The state's rolling 14-day average positivity rate for its COVID-19 cases has climbed to 4.4%, four times the rate of early July.

Hospitalizations, deaths

  • ACTIVE HOSPITALIZATIONS: 38

  • DEATHS, NEWLY REPORTED: 3

  • TOTAL DEATHS: 1,545

The department reported three new deaths in the last week, two in Cass County and one in Pierce County. Hospitalizations have remained low through much of the summer but has seen a substantial increase recently, climbing from 18 at the end of last week to 38 on Friday. Eleven of people hospitalized in the state are between 70 and 79 years old, while the 50 to 59 age range accounts for another nine hospitalizations.
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Readers can reach reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at awillis@forumcomm.com.

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