Burleigh-Morton Healthcare Leaders Plead for the Public to Take Action as COVID-19 Surges

Local health officials and healthcare leaders in Burleigh and Morton Counties are joining together with the following plea: The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. We need the public’s help to curb the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

Over the past several days positive cases have continued to increase in Burleigh and Morton counties while local hospitals have seen an increase in patients treated for COVID-19, including many who are young and otherwise healthy. This upward trend is especially concerning as the Delta variant has become the predominant variant for positive cases and vaccination rates in the community are low. Unvaccinated populations are at highest risk for infection and potentially death. Vaccinations take on an added importance as schools resume in-person instruction because they help to protect those who are currently too young to be vaccinated.

“With the Delta variant being predominant in the community, we are very concerned for our vulnerable pediatric population who do not yet have access to COVID-19 vaccine,” said Dr. David Pengilly, Bismarck-Burleigh Health Officer. “Those under the age of 12 are not eligible yet for COVID-19 vaccine, so we all need to do what we can to protect our kids. Masking indoors is the most readily available method to prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially for students returning to school.”

As of August 23, Burleigh and Morton counties accounted for 22 percent (328) of the state’s 1,508 active cases. This number is the highest number of active cases in Burleigh and Morton counties since December 2020. Presently, both Burleigh and Morton counties are at high risk for community transmission on the CDC COVID-19 tracker

“We are experiencing the same concerning COVID-19 trends as we did last year at this time. Positivity rates are actually higher now than this same time last year,” said Dr. David Field, Regional Health Officer for Custer Health. “In addition, we are dealing with the Delta variant which is twice as contagious and much more infectious than previous variants. This fall could potentially be a very dangerous one if the community doesn’t act now.” 

Healthcare workers have been battling this pandemic for the past 18 months. Right now, there is an additional tool that wasn’t available to us at this time last year, the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is the only way to end this pandemic, and healthcare experts have been educating residents about this for months. However, vaccination rates have remained low across the state of North Dakota with less than 50% of those eligible (ages 12 and older) being fully vaccinated. 

“The COVID surge related to the Delta variant is real and it is stretching resources for all of us working in healthcare,” said Renae Moch, BBPH Director. “Please take the time to learn the facts about the COVID-19 vaccine and follow recommendations from local health experts. People need to act now to limit the lasting impact this ongoing surge will have on our community.”

"It's easy to think that what you see on the national news about increases in COVID cases and hospitalizations in other states cannot happen to us in North Dakota, but that is not the case,” said Kurt Schley, President for CHI St. Alexius Health.  "In the past several weeks, we have seen a significant increase in the positivity rate in our community and in patients being hospitalized with COVID. It's starting to happen here, and we need the community's help to stop the spread by getting vaccinated.  The vast majority of hospitalized patients with COVID are not vaccinated, and this is now being called a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”  

“We are fighting an uphill battle every day, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” said Dr. Robert Tanous, Medical Director for Mid Dakota Clinic. “Get vaccinated. Wear a mask. Realize that this pandemic is still here. Without our community’s combined efforts, battling back against COVID-19 conditions will not improve. We need everyone doing their part.” 

“Our healthcare workers stood up to one of the greatest challenges of their professional lives last year when they had to care for the surges of desperately ill COVID-19 patients, that stretched many of our hospitals to their limits,” said Dr. Michael LeBeau, President/CEO for Sanford Health in Bismarck. “They were strained and frequently exhausted but heroically met that challenge. Now, we find ourselves facing the same thing again. However, this time, the majority of the cases are preventable.  Please help our healthcare workers and help slow the current spread.  Get vaccinated and wear a mask indoors.”

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and North Dakota Department of Health (NDDOH) recommendations remain the best chance to remain safe during this pandemic: 

  • Get a COVID-19 vaccination. 
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. 
  • Physically distance yourself at least 6 feet from others. 
  • Wear a mask indoors, or in situations in which you are unable to distance. 
  • Frequently wash your hands or use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands. 
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. 
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces frequently. 
  • Monitor your health daily. 

Local public health departments continue to monitor COVID-19 activity in Burleigh and Morton Counties. Multiple factors impact strategy recommendations, such as the level of community transmission of COVID-19COVID-19 vaccination rates, the strain on the capacity of our local health systems and frequency of outbreaks and clusters of COVID-19 in the community. Individuals wanting to be vaccinated against COVID-19 should visit www.vaccine.gov and enter a zip code to find the closest vaccination clinics.