At a North Dakota hospital, nurses are forced to test patients for the deadly coronavirus with only a surgical mask. And statewide, many nurses are working multiple times in a row overnight, afraid to speak out as North Dakota grapples with a rapid spike in coronavirus that has left hospitals facing a dangerous shortage of drugs. beds.
On Monday, state officials announced a seemingly counterproductive dressing to tackle the tidal wave of cases that have overwhelmed the mostly rural hospital system: COVID-19 positive nurses and other agents of the health can come to work.
Now the nurses are crazy.
“Nurses have a very high level of confidence in our community, and if we say we can go back to work after testing positive, how can we expect the public to take this pandemic seriously?” Tessa Johnson, president of the North Dakota Nurses Association Johnson, told the Daily Beast.
“I’ve heard from a lot of people that they’re at their breaking point. I think we’re going to lose nurses because of this. It affected everyone in a different way, ”she added.
But while several nurses in North Dakota have told The Daily Beast they are “terrified” of the virus, they insist they will always show up for their increasingly dangerous jobs because “it is what nurses do ”.
“Nurses don’t feel safe. They don’t feel like they have adequate PPE and everyone is concerned about the staff shortage and they don’t feel supported by the leaders of the state, ”said Johnson, who is also a director. executive of a long-term care facility. “But they’re going to keep going to work and put themselves in danger because that’s exactly what nurses do, even if they’re hanging on by a thread.
As of Monday, healthcare professionals in North Dakota with asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 can continue to work in COVID-19 units in hospitals and nursing homes. It’s one of many steps hospitals and officials are taking as part of their “ramp-up plans” to curb the virus that has placed the entire state under the “high risk” category.
“This only applies to COVID-positive health workers who are not showing symptoms and who are only allowed to work in COVID units around patients who already have the virus,” the governor of North Dakota said Monday, Doug Burgum.
The move, Burgum insisted, aligns with CDC guidelines that allow asymptomatic medical staff to work during severe staff shortages.
These changes are occurring even as elected leaders in North Dakota – which, according to a poll, has the lowest rate of residents using face masks in the country– repeatedly refuse to institute a mask warrant or any other forceful COVID-19 mitigation plan.
A North Dakota nurse, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of professional reprisal, said the state’s unprecedented move to allow people infected with the virus to treat patients “is myopic at best – and utterly at worst. detrimental. “
“We need state officials to take decisive and radical decisions to fight this virus, otherwise our hospital system will completely collapse,” said the nurse, adding that she had several colleagues and friends who have had the virus. “Allowing healthcare workers with the disease to treat patients with the same disease will not help. This only compounds the problem. “
Another nurse, who works at Bismarck, told the Daily Beast that she doesn’t know how long she is willing to put herself and her family at risk for a condition that no longer seems to “take her back”.
Johnson stressed that COVID-positive nurses would not be isolated with patients infected with the virus and could spread the deadly virus to their colleagues in “bathrooms and dining rooms, break rooms and elevators.”
Not only is it ‘unrealistic’ to contain a ‘highly contagious’ virus in some wings of the hospital, she said, but the new measure ‘will only make matters worse’ as it will add stress to nurses. and will prevent them from resting. areas of the hospital “where they should feel safe”.
As the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the Midwest, North and South Dakota currently have the nation’s worst per capita death rate. And while the coronavirus is increasing at an uncontrolled rate in dozens of states across the country, North Dakota’s daily average for new cases, hospitalizations and deaths puts the state at the top, according to ProPublica.
The North Dakota Department of Health on Thursday reported 1,801 new cases in the state, bringing the total to 59,173, with a positivity rate of about 18.7%. Last week, the state had 171 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 population, the highest per capita rate in the country, according to the CDC.
Officials also revealed that 11 people died from the virus on Thursday, bringing the state’s death toll to 697. Among the dead is David Andahl, a Republican candidate for the North Dakota legislature who died in October – but who has all the same ended up winning his seat.
Health experts are worried about the state’s trajectory of 762,062 Americans, especially as neighboring states are experiencing similar surges.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, principal investigator at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, specializing in infectious diseases, believes that North Dakota’s viral trajectory is officially putting it in “crisis”.
“This condition doesn’t have a lot of medical resources, which means it has a low threshold for being overwhelmed if something goes wrong,” Adalja told The Daily Beast, adding that the surge in the condition “is a lesson for what happens when you don’t plan for cases. “
On Wednesday, the health department revealed that some residents had tested positive for COVID-19 multiple times, and officials said they had launched an investigation to determine if those cases were in fact re-infections.
“Our cases are people who tested positive twice, developed symptoms a second time, most with more than 90 days between positive results,” a health department spokesperson said. The forum.
Adalja, however, insists that North Dakota’s decision to allow healthcare workers to continue working with “acute infections” is more “a sign of the times” than a dangerous decision that could lead to re-infections. .
“Reinfection is very rare. These medical personnel are acute cases working with already infected patients, ”said Adalja. “That being said, things will get worse in North Dakota before they get better.”
Burgum has moved every county in the state to a “high risk” level, indicated by the color orange. The level, a step below shutdown measures never used in the state, limits all bars and event venues to 25% of their capacity. On Monday, Burgum presented several other initiatives to stem the crisis, including the hiring of EMTs and paramedics to manage test sites.
“Our hospitals are under enormous pressure right now,” Burgum added. “We can see the future in two, three weeks, and we know we have serious constraints.”
Sanford Health, one of the state’s largest healthcare systems, also announced Thursday that it will send inpatients to a nearby nursing home in Fargo to recuperate to free up hospital space. According to The forum, the nursing home is opening a wing that will provide 24 additional beds for a hospital system that is already at “very high capacity”.
The North Dakota Nurses Association blasted the state’s leadership for allowing COVID-positive medical workers to continue working. In a statement Wednesday night, they said it should be a choice of healthcare workers to stay on the job while COVID is positive – rather than their employers.
“If a nurse thinks she is not good enough to provide safe patient care and chooses not to work under these circumstances, employers should not fight back against the nurse for making that decision,” reads. one in the statement, adding that the state should put pressure on COVID-19 mitigation guidelines, such as mask duty and social distancing.
Johnson said nurses are already putting themselves at risk for their patients on a daily basis.
“These are probably positive healthcare workers who haven’t been tested,” Johnson said. “Everyone is already exposed to this virus. We’re gearing up for a very, very dark week to eight weeks unless a drastic change takes place.
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