Essentia Health, other hospitals see near-capacity numbers due to COVID-19, other medical needs


As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, hospitals across the nation continue to see near-capacity numbers. Those trends include hospitals like Essentia Health, who has a hospital in the city of Fargo.

Dr. Rich Vetter, Chief Medical Officer for Essentia Health’s Western Region, tells WZFG News that hospitals have been nearing capacity for the last three to four weeks. He says the issue is not necessarily access to beds, but staffing shortages. Essentia Health reports that six to eight percent of their staff is out due to the virus. The health system has brought in travel nurses to help with the needs.

Vetter says there has been controversy surrounding the guidance Essentia Health has been providing for several months. But a recent study appears to curb some of the controversy.

The controversy surrounding masks has seen that a study shows cloth masks reduce the risk of transmission by 60 percent, while also reducing the viral load, which Vetter says predicts how ill someone with COVID-19 will become.

“People who are asymptomatic are the most contagious,” Dr. Vetter says.

Earlier in the pandemic more severe cases of COVID-19 were showing up – but now Vetter says more positive cases, but less severe, are showing up. He says 80 percent of people who get COVID-19 will do fine without treatment, but with monitoring of symptoms and isolation.

What can the community do?

“The ask of the healthcare providers is that they would like the community’s help to do whatever they can to reduce the transmission, to keep hospitals open and have space available,” Vetter says.

As of Wednesday night, North Dakota reported 10,865 active cases of COVID-19 statewide, with 254 individuals currently hospitalized.