KHRT ND News – 01/14/22

KHRT NEWS – FRIDAY – 011422 – 1200
BISMARCK, ND – COVID-19 cases continue to spike in North Dakota. Today’s weekly report from the Department of Health lists a 14-day rolling positivity rate of 15.6%. There were 11,756 new positives reported January 8th through today. Active cases have almost doubled over the last week to 8,560, up by 4,073. Cass County has 4,100 of those active cases, Burleigh with 1,681, Grand Forks is at 1,227, while Ward County has 767. There are 135 hospitalized which is up 17 and 22 of those are in ICU. Deaths among those who tested positive are up 18 over the week to a total of 2,046 since the pandemic began.
FARGO, N.D. (AP) – North Dakota health officials warned residents at a virtual town hall Thursday that the COVID-19 spike is going to get worse and were met with some skepticism from people questioning the number of deaths attributed to the coronavirus and the safety of the vaccines.
Four panelists said the surge from the omicron variant that was first seen in large cities like New York and Chicago is now hitting North Dakota, with the number of cases exceeding the first spike in November 2020 that preceded the delta variant and happened before vaccines were widely available.
The rolling average of daily new cases in the state over the last two weeks has increased by more than 334.5%, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.
“I think we probably have several weeks before we see a peak here,” said Kirby Kruger, the disease control and forensic pathology section chief for the state Department of Health. “I’m hoping I’m wrong. I’m hoping it’s earlier. Generally we lag a little bit behind what’s happening in other parts of the United States … we were a little bit late to the arrival of the omicron game in North Dakota.”
The omicron variant spreads more easily than other coronavirus strains and has already become dominant in many countries. It also more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus. Early studies show omicron is less likely to cause severe illness than the previous delta variant.
North Dakota health officials said Thursday that while the COVID-19 vaccine may in most cases fail to prevent an omicron infection, it’s still limiting severe infections and hospitalizations in the state. However, they noted that nearly 40 percent of residents have not received a single shot.
“North Dakota rates, sadly, are below the U.S. average for all of (the) age groups,” said Molly Howell, the state’s immunization program director.
The panel spent the last 30 minutes taking questions online. One came from someone who claimed to know of “several friends and relatives who have had severe reactions including strokes, heart attacks and deaths shortly after taking a vaccine shot.”
Dr. Paul Carson, director of the North Dakota State University Center for Immunization Research and Education, said he has heard similar sentiments from people around the region. Carson cited several studies rebuking the safety complaints of the vaccine, including a U.S. survey showing that deaths from any other cause but COVID-19 were lower among vaccinated than unvaccinated people.
“We’re just not seeing these problems,” Carson said. “The vaccines are just turning out to be remarkably safe.”
Carson also addressed speculation on whether deaths attributed to COVID-19 were actually people with the virus whose causes of death were from some other disease. Carson said if health officials were inflating COVID deaths and inappropriately listing it on death certificates, the overall death rates shouldn’t be rising.
“But they went up dramatically in 2020 and in 2021,” Carson said, noting there were anywhere from 5,000 to 45,000 more deaths every week in those two years compared to five-year averages.
MINOT, ND – Trinity Health says a nationwide shortage of monoclonal antibodies has altered the way doctors are able to allocate the lifesaving treatment for COVID-19. The Trinity Emergency/Trauma Center has suspended infusing patients in the ER; COVID-positive patients seeking oral antiviral medication or monoclonal antibody infusion therapy will need to obtain a referral for those treatments from their provider. Local supply of the infusion drugs will be allocated to patients based on their clinical indicators and other factors.
Monoclonal antibody therapy is an infusion treatment for people with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are deemed to be at high risk for complications. If administered early, it’s been shown to prevent serious illness and the need for hospital care. Oral antiviral medications have recently gained emergency use authorization from the FDA for use in certain circumstances.
Casmiar Nwaigwe, MD, Trinity’s infectious disease specialist, says active cases of COVID-19 have spiked recently in the state, and he expects that trend to continue with the Omicron variant gaining a strong foothold. “The dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases across the U.S. and here in North Dakota has boosted demand for monoclonal antibodies and caused a shortage of what has proven to be life-saving treatment,” Dr. Nwaigwe said. “Because of the limited supply of these drugs, monoclonal antibody treatments will not be available for all patients who might otherwise benefit from them.”
The federal government allocates these approved treatments to states based on case burden and utilization rates. The N.D. Department
of Health then determines how the supplies will be distributed within the state. Last week, North Dakota received 51 doses of the drug Sotrovimab, found to be effective against the Omicron virus, and seven doses were allocated for Trinity Health, far fewer than what is needed.
Dr. Nwaigwe says given the national and local shortage of these proven therapies, vaccination remains a person’s best bet against severe infection. “Clearly, patient demand has exceeded the available supply for these drugs in the short term, so the best way to prepare for the current surge is to be fully vaccinated and boosted to protect yourself against serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19,” Nwaigwe said. Vaccination appointments are available by calling Trinity’s hotline, 701-857-2515, or contact First District Health Unit in Minot for an appointment.
MINOT, ND – It’s a third day for SRT customers without email service. Mail2World, SRT’s third party email provider, continues to experience an outage that affects all SRT email customers. Mail2World attributes the outage to a ransomware attack and reports that customer data has not been compromised.
SRT email customers have not been able to send or receive emails since Mail2World reported the unplanned technology-related service interruption on Wednesday morning, January 12. While the email provider had estimated restoration by mid-afternoon on January 13,
Mail2World is still working on restoring their servers and has not issued a revised timeline.
“The ransomware attack is on Mail2World’s server that controls distribution of email, not on SRT directly,” said Cassidy Hjelmstad, CEO and General Manager of SRT. “We believe Mail2World’s statement that our customers’ information has not been compromised. We know this is a highly sensitive issue and we will continue to ask questions of our email provider. But for now, we are hoping they can resolve the issue soon.”
Founded in 2000, Mail2World supports email hosting services for companies across the country and millions of mailboxes globally. The company is headquartered in the United States with offices located worldwide.
(Copyright 2022 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
KHRT NEWS – FRIDAY – 011422 – 0700
FARGO, N.D. (AP) – North Dakota health officials say the COVID-19 spike is about to get worse. Officials held a virtual town hall Thursday and were met with some skepticism from people questioning the number of deaths attributed to the coronavirus and the safety of the vaccines. Officials say the surge from the omicron variant that was first seen in larger cities like New York and Chicago is now hitting North Dakota. The number of cases in the state has exceeded the first spike in November 2020. Some residents are still questioning the vaccines, which panelists said may not prevent omicron but are safe and limiting severe illnesses and hospitalizations in the state.
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – An Illinois appellate court has set aside a decision by state regulators that would allow the Dakota Access oil pipeline to double capacity to 1.1 million barrels daily. The appellate court ordered the Illinois Commerce Commission to review the public need for the project that moves North Dakota oil to a shipping point in Illinois. The court says regulators must also consider regulatory violations in Pennsylvania by one of the pipeline’s owners. The court ordered Illinois regulators to issue a new decision within 11 months, while restricting the pipeline’s capacity to 570,000 barrels per day.
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – Gov. Doug Burgum has named Mandan attorney Ryan Norwell as his new general counsel. Norwell will succeed Leslie Bakken Oliver, who is retiring. Oliver served as general counsel for the governor’s office since Burgum took office in December 2016. Norwell assumes the role on Feb. 28. Norrell has served as general counsel for Farm Credit Services of Mandan since 2015. He’s previously served as legal counsel for the North Dakota Public Service Commission and as state’s attorney for LaMoure County. Norwell earned his law degree from the University of North Dakota.
FARGO, N.D. (AP) – A Minnesota-based window and door maker is expanding its operations in Fargo, North Dakota. Marvin plans to build a 127,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and a 148,000-square-foot distribution center in Fargo. The expansion is expected create 300 new jobs. The unemployment rate in the Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota area was 1.8% in November, according to the most recent federal data. The were three job openings for every unemployed person in the state last fall. Warroad, Minnesota-based Marvin first opened a factory in Fargo 25 years ago. It now has six facilities in the area that employ 1,700 people. Marvin also announced it is bumping its starting wage from $18.50 to $20 an hour and giving new hires access to benefits on the first day.
(Copyright 2022 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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