A Bismarck hospital will use a local nursing home to help treat some COVID-19 patients as cases continue to rise in the region.
Sunset Drive Prospera Community in Mandan will house coronavirus patients who have been discharged from Sanford Health but still need medical care.
The move comes as active cases of COVID-19 continue to climb in the area and in North Dakota, coinciding with the reopening of the economy, more gatherings of people and increased public testing. The state saw daily highs for coronavirus tests, cases and hospitalizations on Thursday.
Local hot spot
An administrator for Sunset Drive wrote in a letter to residents and families dated Wednesday that “hospitals in our community are at maximum capacity and are not able to meet the increased need for patients requiring a hospital bed due to COVID-19 or other emergent health issues.”
A Sanford Health official said the hospital's COVID-19 unit has space and adequate resources.
"Our COVID care unit is not full and we have no shortage of ventilators," Dr. Danielle Thurtle, interim chief medical officer for Sanford, said in a statement. "We also have the capacity to expand COVID beds as needed. In some cases, we may utilize the COVID care unit being established at the Sunset Drive long-term care facility in Mandan for patients who require a long-term care facility setting and no longer require hospital care."
A spokesperson for Sunset Drive did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the COVID-19 unit.
State and local officials recently created the Burleigh-Morton COVID-19 Task Force to address the region's development into a coronavirus hot spot. The group's steering committee on Monday discussed including hospital capacity data in an online dashboard it plans to launch, according to minutes from its meeting.
The letter states that the COVID unit will operate as a separate “mini building” with separate entrances, designated staff and personal protective equipment. The facility will begin accepting patients early next week.
“We appreciate the leadership of Sunset and the commitment of staff to address this community need,” North Dakota Long Term Care Association President Shelly Peterson said in an email. “We believe it will be a win-win for everyone. Long term care has been the battlefield for COVID-19 and through that experience we are becoming the leaders in caring for this at-risk population.”
It was not clear if other long-term care facilities in the area have partnered with hospitals to set up COVID-19 units.
A spokewoman for CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck did not immediately respond to requests for comment about its hospital capacity.
State health officials on Thursday reported 201 new COVID-19 cases in 28 counties, surpassing the previous high of 181 cases on Aug. 8. They were the result of 7,182 total tests, which eclipsed the previous high of 6,046 on Aug. 1. Hospitalizations increased by one from Wednesday, to 59.
The state Department of Health declined to say how many of the hospitalizations are in Bismarck, citing state law that shields disease control records from public disclosure.
The new cases included 39 in Burleigh County and 18 in Morton County, which together are the state's latest hot spot. Burleigh continued to lead the state in active cases, but a spike of 49 cases in Stark County pushed it ahead of Morton to No. 2 in the state in active cases.
Sherry Adams, executive officer at Southwestern District Health Unit in Dickinson, attributed many of the cases in Stark County to social gatherings, The Associated Press reported. The update lifted total positive cases in the county from 300 to 349. Testing in Dickinson has been increased to two days a week, Adams said.
Active cases statewide increased by 63 to 1,098, after two consecutive days of significant drops. No new deaths were reported, leaving that total at 120.
There have been 8,171 COVID-19 cases confirmed in the state since the start of the pandemic, with 6,953 recoveries and 445 hospitalizations.
The number of people in North Dakota tested for coronavirus at least once is at 175,040, and total tests number 379,934.
For more information on coronavirus in North Dakota, go to health.nd.gov/coronavirus.
Reach Sam Nelson at 701-250-8264 or firstname.lastname@example.org.