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North Dakota launches site aimed at sharing pandemic stories

August 25, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakotans are sharing personal experiences and painful stories of loss due to COVID-19 as part of a public education campaign aimed in part at boosting the state’s dismal vaccination rate.

The North Dakota Health Dakota Department’s “COVID-19 Impact Wall ” was launched Wednesday and will feature videos and short stories from North Dakotans impacted by the coronavirus. The website also is intended to serve as memorial for those who have died due to the virus, Health Department spokeswoman Marie Moe said.

The campaign’s rollout comes as COVID-19 cases in the state surged to the highest level of the year, driven by highly infectious delta variant that is spreading rapidly across the United States.

“When people are hit with tragedy, people come together,” Moe said. “This is a place where people can come and gather and share how Covid impacted them and to share their stories of loss.”

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Along with testimonials, health officials said the site will provide information about COVID-19 vaccines, and interviews with health experts on long-term effects, risk of hospitalization and death.

Moe called the site a “virtual gathering place to share experiences, reflect, remember, and learn.”

The $775,000 federally funded public health campaign will run for two years.

State health officials this week also are updating the state’s coronavirus dashboard to include so-called breakthrough infections of fully vaccinated people, and data on all those who have become infected with the virus more than once.

“We want to be completely transparent with North Dakotans and provide as much information as we can so people can make and informed decision,” said Molly Howell, the state immunization manager.

“People are going to see drastic difference in number of cases, in the unvaccinated versus the vaccinated,” she said.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracking site shows North Dakota’s rate of total coronavirus vaccine doses administered per 100,000 population ranks 42nd in the nation among states.

The state Health Department confirmed 1,843 active cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, up about 50% from just a week ago. Health officials say most of the more than 50 patients hospitalized on Wednesday are unvaccinated. Two new deaths were reported, bringing the state’s pandemic death toll to 1,555.