It feels a bit like déjà vu. Across Sanford Health communities, the number of patients being admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 is rising, and hospital resources are being stretched.
But this time, it’s different. Three safe and highly effective vaccines are readily available to help keep as many people as possible out of the hospital.
Health leaders in Bismarck, Fargo, and Sioux Falls came together this week with their respective city leaders and Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota to urge people to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Even with all of our efforts, the delta variant is more contagious and cases continue to rise like we have seen in data provided today (Tuesday). It’s up to each of us to take the responsibility and do our part to stop the spread,” said Dr. Doug Griffin, the vice president and medical officer for Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota.
Surge is coming
The majority of patients hospitalized, in the ICU, or on a ventilator because of COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Leaders in each city expect the number of hospitalizations to peak in the next four to six weeks. Dr. Mike Wilde, the vice president medical officer for Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, said it could be as soon as three weeks in Sioux Falls.
“The time to take action is now,” said Dr. Wilde. “No one wants to go through the trying times we experienced last year. Everything from hospitalizations to restrictions to closings and cancellations.”
Hospital resources, like beds and staff, are already stretched thin. It’s expected to get worse before it gets better.
“We have about 500 additional shifts that have been picked up over the last week. That’s personal sacrifice that our front-line staffs make,” said Dr. Michael LeBeau, the CEO and president of Sanford Health in Bismarck, North Dakota. “Each of our hospitals have these folks that are spending the majority of their waking hours at the hospital to care for folks.”
It’s a similar story in Fargo.
“We are reassigning medical staff, clinical staff, clinical resources and equipment based on our greatest need. Right now, we’re continuing to perform non-emergent surgeries that are anticipating in the near future, we may need to reduce surgical time to redeploy staff,” said Dr. Griffin.
Time to step up
Patients coming to Sanford’s hospitals are not just seeking treatment for a COVID-19 diagnosis. The hospitals in Fargo, Bismarck, and Sioux Falls are seeing patients who delayed care over the pandemic or everyday patients coming in with diagnoses like a heart attack or stroke. That’s on top of a rising number of COVID-19 patients.
Because of the alarming surge, health leaders are asking everyone to use mitigation strategies that we’ve had for the last year and a half, like hand washing, distancing, and masking up. Dr. Wilde said this is especially important as kids are in their first few weeks of the school year.
“We encourage our communities to escalate safety efforts. That includes recommending all students and staff use masks and other mitigation strategies to protect our students and prevent the spread of the virus,” said Dr. Wilde.
Even more importantly, if kids are 5 and older, they should get vaccinated. With the three vaccines readily available, it’s up to each individual, kids and adults, to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in their community.
“We must get the spread under control. The majority of these cases are preventable. Mask back up and get vaccinated.”
Information in this story was accurate when it was posted. As the COVID-19 pandemic changes, scientific understanding and guidelines may have changed since the original publication date.
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