Authorities in North Dakota are trying to ease concerns over hospital capacity as the state grapples with the country’s steepest current surge in coronavirus cases.
Relative to the size of its population, North Dakota has reported more new cases in the last week — 363 per 100,000 — than any other state, according to tracking by The New York Times. (Neighboring South Dakota is second, at 322 per 100,000.) So far, the state has reported 234 coronavirus-related deaths, including four on Sunday.
North Dakota state health officials met in Bismarck with the leaders of two large hospital systems over the weekend, following news reports that hospitals in the state were so crowded with Covid-19 patients that they were deferring some elective procedures and putting Covid-19 patients in emergency-room areas for lack of beds.
Following the meeting, Dr. Michael LeBeau of Sanford Health, which operates hospitals in several states including North Dakota, said in a statement that the hospital system intended to announce plans later this week to increase bed capacity in Bismarck.
The number of active coronavirus hospitalizations in the state has nearly doubled, with 105 as of Sunday, compared with 57 two weeks ago. While North Dakota’s official figures suggest that there is still ample capacity in the state as a whole, some say that the stress on hospitals is growing acute in some areas. The leaders of Essentia Health warned last week in a statement that its hospital in Fargo was “at or near capacity.”
Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, is also dealing with criticism of his reluctance to issue a statewide mask mandate and his move to rescind a quarantine order for close contacts of people who test positive for the coronavirus.
The state’s interim health officer, Dr. Paul Mariani, resigned on Friday after Governor Burgum rescinded the quarantine order. Dr. Mariani was the third person to hold the position since the start of the pandemic.