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Fargo mayor, health officials urge people to get vaccinated

September 24, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Fargo’s mayor and health officials made an urgent appeal Friday for North Dakota residents to get vaccinated and wear masks indoors as coronavirus cases surge.

Mayor Tim Mahoney, who is also a general surgeon, said hospitals and medical staffs are overwhelmed.

“This is a cry for help from our health systems,” Mahoney said on a video call.

North Dakota has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S., with just over half of the population completing their required doses, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ninety percent of people hospitalized in North Dakota for the virus are not vaccinated, Mahoney and others emphasized on the video call.

The plea from officials came as the North Dakota Health Department on Friday announced that vaccine boosters should be available late next week to people 65 and older, nursing home residents and others who have existing health problems that make them at risk for severe illness from the coronavirus.

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North Dakota has had a spike in COVID-19 cases in the past couple of months due to the highly contagious delta variant.

The state Department of Health reported Friday that 664 of the 3,604 active cases in the state are in Cass County, which includes the Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota, metropolitan area of nearly 250,000 people. Burleigh County, which includes Bismarck, had 755 active cases, according to Health Department data.

Only 195 inpatient beds and 15 intensive care unit beds were available in North Dakota hospitals on Friday, according to state data.

“Our hospitals are full, not just in Fargo but across the state and region, said Nicole Christensen, chief nursing officer at Essentia Health in Fargo.

Christensen and other health officials said vaccinations would ease the stress on hospitals and staff, and free up capacity for other medical procedures.

Some health care workers are leaving the profession for “less stressful and less demanding” jobs, she said.

Brittany Sachdeva, a nurse and Sanford Health’s vice president of operations, said health care workers increasingly are tired, frustrated and overworked.

“It’s time for the community to step up and take action,” she said.