One out of every 500 Americans has died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Donald M. Lloyd-Jones said Friday, Oct. 1. Whether an individual knows someone who has died from or been diagnosed with COVID-19, or they have experienced the disease, the pandemic is something that health experts say cannot be ignored.

Lloyd-Jones is volunteer president of the American Heart Association (AHA). His knowledge of cardiovascular disease prevention and epidemiology is being used as part of AHA’s campaign to educate vulnerable, unvaccinated populations.

“We want people to get back and reconnect with their doctors,” Lloyd-Jones said. “We know how to keep people safe and to care for them. We also want them to get the information and management strategies they can for risk factors (affecting COVID-19’s severity and recovery) like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.”

People who visit their doctors are also encouraged to ask about available COVID-19 vaccines.

“Doctors are making the effort to inform their patients. If you have a trusted doctor, please reconnect with them,” Lloyd-Jones said.

Richland County, North Dakota, confirmed zero new and 49 active COVID-19 cases Monday, Oct. 4. The county reported four new recoveries from the disease and has 19 COVID-19 or related deaths to date, according to the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH).

North Dakota itself confirmed 279 new and 3,912 active COVID-19 cases Monday. The state reported 386 new recoveries from the disease and has had 1,621 COVID-19 or related deaths to date, according to NDDoH data.

As of Monday, North Dakota had 157 hospitalizations due to COVID-19, including 24 patients in the ICU. The majority of the 157 patients, 44 total, were between ages 60-69. Nearly 990 of the state’s 1,621 COVID-19 or related deaths have been among ages 80 and older, NDDoH reported.

More than 51 percent of North Dakota’s eligible population, ages 12 and older, have completed their primary series of COVID-19 vaccinations as of Sunday, Oct. 3, according to NDDoH data. Nearly 56 percent of eligible state residents have gotten at least one dose of vaccine.

In Richland County, nearly 59 percent of the eligible population have completed their primary series of COVID-19 vaccinations as of Sunday. Nearly 62 percent of eligible county residents have gotten at least one dose of vaccine.

As of Monday, according to NDDoH, Richland County ranked No. 13 among North Dakota’s 53 counties in terms of completed vaccine primary series. The top 14 are:

• Dickey County, 69.7 percent of the population

• Cavalier County, 66.4 percent

• Nelson County, 65.3 percent

• Rolette County, 62.5 percent

• Cass, Sargent and Steele counties, 60 percent each

• Ransom County, 59.2 percent

• Barnes County, 59.1 percent

• Traill and Walsh counties, 58.7 percent each

• Foster County, 58.6 percent

• Richland County, 58.5 percent

• Benson County, 58.1 percent

Herd immunity, Daily News previously reported, occurs when at least 70 percent of a population is protected. When this happens, according to the Mayo Clinic, the full community is considered protected.

Richland County Public Health Director Kayla Carlson can be reached at 701-642-7735 to arrange vaccination appointments or to answer vaccine questions.

“We can say that it’s crystal clear,” Lloyd-Jones said. “In states with high levels of COVID-19 vaccination, there are less levels of severe cases and the COVID-19 positivity rate is much lower than elsewhere. Those communities with low rates are really suffering.”

Approximately 64 percent of Americans have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, AHA stated. More than half of the population is fully vaccinated.

“Data from the U.S. Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that two groups with low rates of vaccination include young Black adults, many of whom may already be at-risk for developing a heart attack or stroke; and pregnant women who may have concerns about how the vaccine may affect their unborn child,” the association stated. “Because these groups of people are already vulnerable to health risks, protecting them from the virus and its complications is even more important — and research shows the vaccine is safe for them.”

COVID-19 has been shown to cause the most damage in a patient’s lungs, Lloyd-Jones said. In severe cases, the virus travels through the bloodstream and can affect other organs including the kidneys, liver, brain and heart.

“What is becoming clear is that we’re not nearly as healthy as we should be. Obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and preexisting heart disease — they’ve all left us vulnerable to this virus,” Lloyd-Jones said.

The AHA, one of the largest public health organizations, continues its outreach work in communities traditionally underserved in terms of healthcare. This includes rural and non-white populations.

“We’re working to improve this,” Lloyd-Jones said. “We’re in the schools, in the communities. As a public health organization, this is our crisis right now. We want to help people reconnect with their doctors and get vaccinated.”

Through his work, Lloyd-Jones has visited nearly every U.S. state. He has yet to see North Dakota, but is aware of the Southern Red River Valley’s flood seasons.

“The pandemic is a similar catastrophe. With the floods, we take as many preventative measures as we can. With the pandemic, that is the vaccine. This is a moment when we need to be protecting each other. We won’t get out of this crisis alone. We need to protect each other and our families. And the most effective way of doing that is by getting a vaccine.”

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