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Sanford Fargo CEO asks that people wear masks for holidays

November 25, 2020 GMT

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The head of the largest hospital in North Dakota’s most populous city is asking people to wear masks, warning that not following COVID-19 safety measures could have consequences aside from spreading the virus during the holiday season.

Sanford Fargo president and CEO Bryan Nermoe told The Associated Press that people’s failure to follow COVID-19 protocols could force some patients who need treatment for ailments other than the virus to be put on waiting lists or be sent to facilities hundreds of miles away if hospitals are overtaxed.

“What we see on the horizon ... there is not an unlimited ability to add bed capacity and to add staff,” Nermoe said. “If the current trend of seeing an increase in positivity rate of those being tested continues, we will at some point eclipse our ability to provide care on both sides, across the state and the country.”

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In Fargo alone, the city’s three hospitals were down to four staffed intensive care unit beds and 19 staffed inpatient beds, according to state data compiled Tuesday. That included no ICU beds and 17 regular beds at Sanford, which recently opened 14 new patient rooms at its main facility in southwest Fargo.

Nermoe is asking people to keep frontline caregivers in mind when deciding whether to wear masks, wash hands, maintain social distancing and avoid large gatherings.

“On behalf of them, mask up,” Nermoe said. “Do it for them because they are really going above and beyond, 24/7, 365, of really trying to meet the needs of people in our region.”

November has been the deadliest month in North Dakota for deaths caused by COVID-19. State officials on Wednesday reported six deaths, for a total of 321 in November and 887 since the start of the pandemic. The state’s fatality count from the virus ranks eighth highest per capita in the country, Johns Hopkins University researchers report.

Many of the state’s medical facilities prepared to handle an uptick in both COVID-19 and regular patients in the spring, only to see people put off basic medical care until the fall. That has resulted in a “record number of COVID and non-COVID patients” in recent weeks, Nermoe said.

“If that trend continues, we very well may run into conditions where patients have to wait a little longer or have to travel an extraordinary distance away from family to get the care they need,” Nermoe said. “We just don’t want that to happen.”