People aged 60+ have 24% of COVID cases, but 92% of deaths

Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 5:28 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Before declaring a state of emergency, Gov. Doug Burgum and the Health Department said the goal of the state’s COVID-19 response was to protect vulnerable populations. Because of recent infection spikes, some facilities have needed to restrict visitations again.

Every day since the pandemic started, Lauri Schlosser has visited her dad through the window of his care facility.

“It’s better than nothing. And at least this way we can communicate one-on-one. I get to see his face. He can see my face, and at least I get eyes on him every day,” Schlosser said.

Luckily, Schlosser’s dad isn’t part of a growing statistic.

While those aged 60+ make up only 24% of all COVID-19 cases in North Dakota, they also make up 59% of hospitalizations and 92% of deaths.

And those margins have only gotten bigger.

So families are trying to adapt to see their loved ones.

“I can’t tell you how many phone calls I get on a weekly basis asking ‘What are we doing? Why are we locking them up?’ I understand, but we have to keep our residents safe. And the only way we can do it right now in long term care,” said Chris Larson of the Reuniting Residents and Families Task Force.

As of Wednesday, there are 183 active cases for residents and 269 for skilled workers. And with those new record highs, some facilities are once again changing their visitation policies and putting pressure on staff.

“The last thing we want to have happen is to have to use positive asymptomatic health care workers in skilled nursing facilities. So yes, the health care workforce is already under stress,” Dept. of Human Services Executive Director Chris Jones.

State departments believe some of the outbreak is caused by congregate dining and increased social events. In an effort to bring case numbers down, the state is changing their testing priorities. In the meantime, people like Schlosser are doing their best to be as close as possible.

COVID tests from facilities will move to the front of the line for a 24-hour turnover, half what it used to be. Some facilities have been able to avoid more restrictions by using plastic face shields when working with residents.

Copyright 2020 KFYR. All rights reserved.

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