Altru Hospital has reported an increase in COVID-19 patients over the past few days as numbers have continued to rise in the region.

As of Tuesday, Aug. 17, Altru had seven patients with COVID-19, two of whom are on a ventilator, according to hospital spokesperson Annie Bonzer. None of those seven patients had received a COVID-19 vaccine.

This is in line with what Altru has seen over the last several months, Bonzer said: since February, 93% of patients admitted to Altru for COVID-19 have been unvaccinated.

The number of hospitalized COVID patients at Altru is slightly higher than it was at this time last year, Bonzer said, just before numbers began climbing rapidly in early fall and peaking in November.

She noted that the number of hospitalized patients is constantly changing, but the recent uptick in patients is certainly concerning.

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"Our concern is not about physical beds, as it is the staffing resources to support them," Bonzer said in an email to the Herald. "We have had a busy hospital outside of COVID, and with those numbers increasing, we are concerned about the pressure it may put on our already weary staff. We urge our community to get vaccinated to protect themselves and our health care resources."

After a relatively normal summer, cases have ticked up rapidly in Grand Forks County and the surrounding area in recent weeks. Earlier this week, the Grand Forks Health Officer's Dashboard was updated to the yellow "moderate" risk category after roughly four months in the green "low" risk category, and appears to be poised to be updated again in the coming days to the orange "high" risk category.

At a Grand Forks County Commission meeting Tuesday evening, Grand Forks Emergency Management Director Kari Goelz informed commissioners that the highly contagious delta variant had been found in Grand Forks, mirroring trends across the rest of the country.

The uptick in cases has not yet reached all hospitals in the region, however. CHI St. Alexius spokesperson Melanie Quinton reported that the Devils Lake hospital currently does not have any hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

According to state data, Altru had one available ICU bed and one available non-ICU inpatient bed available as of last week, but Bonzer noted those numbers are updated continuously and are constantly changing. As of Tuesday morning, Aug. 17, the state reported that CHI St. Alexius in Devils Lake had 13 available inpatient beds. The Devils Lake facility does not have an ICU.

Bonzer noted that it's important to remember that hospitalizations are a lagging statistic -- as local case numbers increase, local hospitalizations can be expected to increase within a few weeks.

According to the North Dakota Department of Health, there are currently 1,231 active cases of COVID-19 in the state, up from a low point of 119 cases on July 5. In Grand Forks County, there are currently 85 active positive cases of COVID-19, up from 10 on June 28. The pandemic peaked in Grand Forks County on Nov. 8, 2020, with 1,888 active positive cases.

Bonzer said the best thing people can do to protect themselves and their community is to get a COVID-19 vaccine, which have been repeatedly and consistently shown to be safe and highly effective at preventing serious illness and death. To find a vaccine near you, visit www.vaccines.gov.