The elderly and people with underlying health conditions in North Dakota are beginning to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine doses as the state enters Phase 1B of vaccine priority groups, and providers are gearing up as the vaccine becomes more widely available.
Adults 75 and older are slated to receive the vaccine first in this phase. Phase 1A vaccinations, which began in December, prioritized health care workers and long-term care residents and staff.
Sanford Health Bismarck began vaccinating some of its first Phase 1B patients Thursday. Two couples including Jim and Pat Wheeler received their first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a Sanford vaccination clinic.
"It was a piece of cake," Jim Wheeler said.
Pat Wheeler, 83, said she and her 85-year-old husband have been staying at home for nearly a year. The couple have 15 great-grandchildren, including two babies they haven't met yet because of the pandemic.
"At our age we don't have time to waste," she said.
Jim Wheeler encouraged people to get the vaccine, saying the crowd was "the biggest hindrance."
Sanford Bismarck is scaling up its vaccination operations as it implements Phase 1B, said Dr. Todd Schaffer, Sanford Bismarck vice president of clinics. Some staff are being pulled from their usual roles to help out with the clinics, and student nurses from North Dakota State University are assisting with vaccinations. The hospital is contacting patients to inform them about the vaccine's availability to the new priority phase and about how to register for a vaccine clinic.
CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck has begun vaccinating its patients who are 75 and older as part of Phase 1B, according to a statement. It is expecting more vaccines next week and will hold a clinic by appointment only. Patients can call CHI St. Alexius' vaccine scheduling hotline at 701-530-6776 or go to its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CHISt.AlexiusHealth for more information.
Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health is moving away from mass testing events to focus on vaccination clinics.
The public health department still is vaccinating Phase 1A priority groups but should begin vaccinating those in Phase 1B next week, starting with people 75 and older, depending on vaccine allocation.
To sign up for vaccination clinics, Burleigh County residents should fill out the survey found at https://www.bismarcknd.gov/95/Public-Health or call 701-355-1540.
Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health Director Renae Moch said the department has received a lot of interest in the vaccine but there isn't enough to go around. The state estimates that Phase 1B covers about 230,000 people, and the state receives about 10,000 total doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines per week.
Custer Health Director of Nursing Jodie Fetsch said the Mandan-based public health department also has seen high demand from people wanting to be vaccinated. She recently trained volunteers to handle the increased call volume. Custer Health is collecting responses from a survey on its website in order to plan vaccination clinics in the coming weeks. It is finishing up some Phase 1A vaccinations this week.
Morton County residents should fill out the survey found at https://www.custerhealth.com/vaccine-information or call 701-667-3370 to sign up for a clinic.
Both Fetsch and Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health Community Health Nurse Manager Theresa Schmidt urge people to be patient while waiting for their turn to get the vaccine.
The state as of Wednesday had received 76,275 COVID-19 vaccine doses and administered 48,950 of them. Of the doses received, 36,000 are from Pfizer and 40,000 are from Moderna.
The North Dakota Health Department reported 248 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, bringing the total number of active cases to 1,764, 15 more than Wednesday. Active cases in Burleigh-Morton counties number 307.
The department also reported eight new coronavirus-related deaths, including a Burleigh County woman in her 80s, making the total death count 1,365 since the onset of the pandemic last March.
Seventy-eight people are hospitalized with the virus, up six from Wednesday. Health officials also reported 194 new recoveries Thursday, bringing the pandemic total to 92,249.
The state handled 9,471 tests Wednesday and calculated a daily positivity rate of 3%.
North Dakota's statewide mask mandate is in effect until Jan. 18, and business capacity restrictions are in place until Jan. 29. For more information, go to www.bit.ly/38NiT4r and https://bit.ly/2Xq34tk. The state's COVID-19 Smart Restart County Analysis data dashboard can be accessed at www.health.nd.gov/healthmetrics. A list of vaccine priority groups can be found at https://www.health.nd.gov/covid-19-vaccine-priority-groups. For more detailed information on coronavirus in North Dakota, go to www.health.nd.gov/coronavirus.
Reach Sam Nelson at 701-250-8264 or email@example.com.