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North Dakota expands indoor visitation at nursing homes, reports 38 new virus cases

North Dakota expands indoor visitation at nursing homes, reports 38 new virus cases

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North Dakota expanded visitation at long-term care facilities to allow for more family indoor visits with nursing home residents in declining mental or physical health stemming from coronavirus pandemic restrictions put in place three months ago.

Separately, state health officials reported another 38 coronavirus cases Tuesday, with half of the new cases coming from the Bismarck-Mandan area.

The updated end-of-life guidance at long-term care facilities announced Tuesday allows for family indoor visitation with nursing home residents who are exhibiting documented signs and symptoms of "sharp psychosocial or medical decline" who may benefit from additional social interaction that can't be achieved outside, according to a news release from the North Dakota Joint Information Center.

Officials stress that this exception will be allowed on a "very limited basis," must not be considered routine and can only be granted after consideration from a facility's clinical interdisciplinary team. 

Both state officials and advocates were pleased with Tuesday's announcement.

"To say I'm happy would be an understatement," said Christopher Larson, a nursing home resident in Mayville and chairman of the Task Force on Reuniting Residents and Families.

Visitation for family members of the 10,000 residents at skilled nursing, basic care and assisted living facilities in North Dakota has been restricted by state order since April 6. Indoor visitation has been allowed only in end-of-life situations or for residents with terminal conditions. Gov. Doug Burgum on June 5 announced a three-phase reopening plan that aims to find a balance between creating more visitation opportunities while keeping residents safe from COVID-19.

As of Tuesday afternoon, only five residents at long-term care facilities across the state had COVID-19, said Shelly Peterson, president of the Long Term Care Association.

Coronavirus in North Dakota Active

Tuesday's testing report included 19 new cases in the Bismarck-Mandan area, with nine new cases from Burleigh County and 10 from Morton County.

Mass testing events have been held in Bismarck in recent weeks as state officials monitor the spread of the virus in the area, which is quickly becoming the second hot spot in the state after Cass County. 

Cass County had 13 new cases Tuesday, and three cases were reported in Mountrail County. Benson, Pierce and Walsh counties had one new case each. 

Statewide, 302 virus cases are active, an increase of five from the day prior. Since the start of the pandemic, 3,576 cases have been reported among North Dakota residents.

The new cases reported Tuesday stem from 1,709 tests processed at labs on Monday, a drop from Sunday's report of 3,368 tests processed.

Seventy-nine people have died with COVID-19 in North Dakota. No new deaths were reported Tuesday. Twenty-five virus patients are hospitalized across the state. A total of 231 people have been hospitalized from COVID-19 at some point, including those currently hospitalized.

Another 32 people have recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 3,195 since the pandemic began.

A mass testing event was hosted on Tuesday by Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health at the Bismarck Event Center. Another mass testing event will take place Wednesday at the Capitol in the northwest parking lot from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is open to people of all ages, who are encouraged to register at testreg.nd.gov. The testing is being organized by the North Dakota National Guard, the North Dakota Department of Health and the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

Most people who get COVID-19 recover, experiencing only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. Others, especially the elderly and people with existing health problems, can experience more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

For more information on the virus in North Dakota, go to www.health.nd.gov/coronavirus.

Reach Amy R. Sisk at 701-250-8252 or amy.sisk@bismarcktribune.com.

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