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The US Air Force is sending 60 medical personnel to North Dakota to address a staffing crisis, as the state runs low on ICU beds and faces the world’s highest COVID-19 mortality rate.
Gov. Doug Burgum announced in a statement Thursday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved the state’s request for federal assistance. He said most of the people being sent are nurses, and that they would be spread across six hospitals in four cities.
The state has 13 staffed intensive care unit beds available across all of its hospitals, and 211 standard inpatient beds, according to the latest figures from the Department of Health.
In the seven days ending with November 15, North Dakota recorded the world’s highest COVID-19 mortality rate, according to an analysis by the Federation of American Scientists. About 1 in every 1,000 people in the state have died from the virus, with the state recording 818 deaths and a population of about 762,000, according to the latest census estimate.
Burgum said the healthcare workers will deploy to the state this weekend and are coming from Air Force bases in Ohio, Virginia, Texas, Florida, Maryland, and others.
“These dedicated Air Force personnel will help relieve the stress on North Dakota’s more than 20,000 nurses who continue to work tirelessly to provide exceptional care for patients under incredibly challenging conditions,” Burgum said.
An additional 60 civilian nurses are also headed to the state from a temporary staffing company that the state has contracted with, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
While previously avoiding a statewide mask mandate, the governor changed course last week, requiring masks in some settings through December 13.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, visited North Dakota last month and criticized the lack of mask use.
“Over the last 24 hours as we were here and we were in your grocery stores and in your restaurants and frankly even in your hotels, this is the least use of masks that we have we seen in retail establishments of any place we have been,” Birx told reporters, according to the Bismarck Tribune.
Along with the mask mandate, Burgum announced bars and restaurants must operate at 50% capacity and suspended some high school sporting events until December 14, a measure he later shortened by two weeks, among other things.
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Source:: Business Insider – Science