In North Dakota, COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen so far that the state will “allow” asymptomatic, COVID-19-positive healthcare workers to keep working, Gov. Doug Burgum announced this week. Allowed. The lucky ducks.
COVID-19 hospitalizations in South Dakota increased by 26.5% last week, but Gov. Kristi Noem is still rejecting a mask mandate, and her spokesman points to the fact that 34% of the state’s hospital beds remain vacant. One part he’s not saying is “For now.” Another is that, as the president of Rapid City Hospital told The Washington Post, “Our limiting factor isn’t beds, it’s staff.”
Meanwhile, over in Minnesota, beds are a limiting factor—just 22 ICU beds are left in the Twin Cities, and the state as a whole is over 90% ICU capacity. That’s with coronavirus rates rising quickly, hospitalizations following along, and a rise in deaths presumably following those—especially if hospitals get overwhelmed.
The Upper Midwest, in other words, is a disaster area, and the disaster is the natural one of the pandemic and the one created by Donald Trump and the Republican governors and legislatures of so many of these states barring meaningful public health responses to the pandemic.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has finally given in and required masks under some circumstances, even as both Noem and Burgum refuse. Burgum encourages mask-wearing, saying “You don’t have to believe in covid, you don’t have to believe in a certain political party or not, you don’t have to believe whether masks work or not. You can just do it because you know that one thing is very real. And that’s that 100 percent of our capacity is now being used.” But require the thing he knows is one of the most important measures available to fight the coronavirus? Nope.
”There’s an awful lot of preventable deaths happening right now,” the University of Utah School of Medicine’s Andrew Pavia told reporters on Wednesday. At this rate, they’re not only going to keep happening, they’re going to get worse.