Welcome to the new normal for COVID-19

COVID-19 tests are available free of charge at Richland County Public Health, Wahpeton. They are available regardless if an individual or household received its allocation from COVIDtests.gov.

Concluding approximately two consecutive years of daily updates, the North Dakota Department of Health posted its last daily coronavirus dashboard and COVID-19 vaccine dashboards Thursday, March 17.

Richland County, North Dakota, had zero active COVID-19 cases Thursday, compared to the 281 active cases statewide. Nearly 53 percent of eligible North Dakota residents were confirmed to have completed a COVID-19 vaccine series, compared to more than 59 percent of eligible Richland County residents.

NDDoH previously announced that starting Friday, March 18, it would begin publishing weekly updates for both the coronavirus and COVID-19 dashboards.

“The weekly coronavirus dashboard will be simplified in how data is presented and will shift from a focus on daily case counts and percent positivity rates and have an increased focus on trends over time and severity of disease,” NDDoH stated.

Among the changes is how hospitalization data is presented. Previously, data only included individuals who were North Dakota residents hospitalized due to COVID-19. On Thursday, a total of 38 people were listed as hospitalized, including six ICU patients.

“The new dashboard will align with national reporting and will include all individuals hospitalized with or due to COVID-19 who are in North Dakota hospitals, regardless of their state of residency,” NDDoH stated. “The change to align with national reporting practice will initially result in a significant increase in the number of hospitalizations reported.”

On Friday, NDDoH reported that during the week of March 11-17, 2022, a total of 69 inpatient beds were occupied with people with COVID-19.

Richland County Public Health Director Kayla Carlson advised the public to not be alarmed at the change in hospitalization numbers. She also continued to promote best practices in preventing COVID-19 or reducing its impact, including masking when in public and getting vaccinated.

“Right now, we’re offering testing Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday,” Carlson said. “Tuesday and Thursday, it’s a rapid antigen test. On Wednesday, it’s a PCR test. Tuesday and Thursday, we do walk-ins between 9-11 a.m., while on Wednesdays, it’s by appointment.”

Due to the decline and current halt in confirmed local new and active COVID-19 cases, Richland County Public Health has also seen a decline in individuals getting tested for COVID-19. Because of this, the department may modify its testing schedule and availability.

“We are still offering at-home test kits. Individuals are free to come and grab those. They’re available for anyone age 2 and older,” Carlson said.

The local testing situation is one component of what health experts call the new normal for COVID-19. The new question is how long normalcy can last.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday, March 16 on the possibility of an omicron variant, BA.2, possibly being more transmissible than the original omicron variant, BA.1. It is possible that a second omicron wave will repeat its pattern in Western Europe and affect the United States.

“A number of variables — including relaxed precautions against viral transmission, vaccination rates, the availability of antiviral medications and natural immunity acquired by previous infection — may affect the course of any surge in the United States, experts said,” the Post reported. “Most importantly, it is unclear at this point how many people will become severely ill, stressing hospitals and the healthcare system as BA.1 did.”

It’s always good to be proactive about personal health, Carlson said. Springtime is commonly associated with allergy symptoms, which are often similar to COVID-19 symptoms.

“Testing is so easy now, especially with at-home kits. It’s a good time to pick some up and keep them on hand. If you think your allergies are flaring, do a quick test,” Carlson said.

COVID-19 tests are available free of charge at Richland County Public Health, Wahpeton. They are available regardless if an individual or household received its allocation from COVIDtests.gov.



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