Hospitalizations in North Dakota due to COVID-19 hit another high on Monday, and state health officials reported three more coronavirus-related deaths, including two in Burleigh County.
Hospitalizations rose to 105, up nine from Sunday and one more than the previous high on Saturday, according to state Department of Health data. Hospitalizations in the past week have risen 21%.
Employees of Sanford Health and CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck told the Burleigh-Morton COVID-19 Task Force on Friday that the facilities are nearing capacity due to the pandemic. Gov. Doug Burgum's office issued a statement late Sunday saying state officials had met with leaders of the two hospitals about the issue.
“As our state continues to see record numbers of COVID-19 cases, it’s more important than ever that we understand the challenges facing our hospitals and caregivers to ensure that there is a bed available for every patient who needs one,” Burgum said.
Sanford Health Bismarck President Michael LeBeau and CHI St. Alexius President and CEO Kurt Schley both said in the statement that their facilities have taken steps to address the spike. Sanford later this week will announce a plan to increase bed capacity, according to LeBeau.
Thirty-five of the 40 beds in Sanford's COVID-19 unit were occupied Monday, Sanford Bismarck Interim Chief Medical Officer Danielle Thurtle told the Tribune. Sanford has the ability to increase bed space in the unit if necessary, she said.
Thurtle did not directly address the capacity for the rest of the hospital, including the intensive care unit, but said bed capacity fluctuates daily and Sanford has enough staff and space to take care of patients.
Some patients are being diverted from Sanford, though Thurtle did not specify how many or to which locations. She said that patients can be diverted based on several factors to make sure they get "the best care plan for their needs." Patients in the past have been diverted to Fargo.
"We have been preparing for patient surges for months and are well-equipped to manage the increase in demand," Thurtle said. "We are continually evaluating the readiness of our facilities, teams and supplies."
A spokeswoman for CHI St. Alexius Health did not immediately respond to requests for hospital capacity data.
State health officials on Monday reported 260 new cases of COVID-19 statewide, including 69 in Burleigh County and 19 in Morton County. Burleigh once again led in active cases, with 719 -- one-fifth of the state total of 3,669. Morton has 269 active cases.
The health department reported the deaths of a Burleigh man in his 80s and woman in her 60s, and a Rolette County man in his 80s. All had underlying medical conditions. Their deaths brought the state total to 234, including 45 in Burleigh County.
There have been 20,983 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in North Dakota since the start of the pandemic, with 17,080 recoveries and 828 hospitalizations. The number of residents tested for coronavirus at least once is at 238,737, and total tests number 626,289.
Burleigh and Morton counties are in the yellow "moderate" risk level, which is in the middle of the state's five-level color-coded system. The risk level determines what sort of coronavirus-related protocols are in place under the ND Smart Restart Plan for everything from businesses to family gatherings. The protocols are not enforced.
Fourteen other North Dakota counties are at yellow, 25 are in the green or "low" risk level and 12 are in the blue "new normal" level. The state reviews the county risk levels on a weekly basis.
For more detailed information on county risk levels and on coronavirus in North Dakota, go to health.nd.gov/coronavirus.
Reach Blake Nicholson at 701-250-8266 or email@example.com.