As indicated in my prior campus update, we have been closely monitoring COVID-19 developments, and unfortunately, the number of cases in our area continues to climb. Last week, Fargo Cass Public Health issued a news release (see text below) indicating that Cass County changed from a “substantial transmission” designation to a “high transmission” designation.
NDSU will continue to strongly recommend that all people wear masks in indoor spaces when social distancing cannot be maintained. However, effective with the start of classes next Monday, masks will be required in all classroom settings whether such classes are credit, non-credit, training sessions, etc. Faculty members who are able to maintain social distance from students may remove their masks during the class for purposes of being more easily heard.
In addition, individuals should feel authorized to kindly ask other people who are visiting their work space (e.g., offices, cubicles, etc.) to wear a mask. People who are asked to wear a mask in a work space should graciously agree. A great deal of NDSU’s success in dealing with COVID-19 so far has been based on our community members’ willingness to be considerate to other people. This compassion will be necessary until this pandemic is truly over.
None of us know what another person’s risk factors are, and I would remind people that not every person is eligible for a vaccination yet. Children under the age of 12 are still unable to get vaccinated, and many NDSU employees have children under the age of 12. Unfortunately, parents (both vaccinated and unvaccinated) can become infected and share the virus with their children at home. Let’s continue to help each other out and remember that when somebody asks us to wear a mask, they likely have risk factors that we do not face.
Some believe that NDSU should immediately mandate masks in all indoor settings based upon what is happening in the southern states. However, North Dakota is far from those extreme conditions, and we may never get to those circumstances (if people get vaccinated). For the time being, I have seen students coming back to campus and interacting with their friends and colleagues. They are smiling and laughing without masks for the first time in nearly a year and a half. Some have never been to NDSU without masks and a pandemic. There is value - real value - in being able to interact with other people without masks, and I do not want to underestimate the need for this important human connection.
COVID-19 conditions may continue to decline, and we may have to take more aggressive steps. However, I am not convinced that things have to get worse. If we make a concerted effort now to get as many people vaccinated as possible, we may be able to avoid the situation being faced by the south. Please, please get vaccinated if you haven’t already done so. NDSU will be offering nine vaccination clinics where you can get vaccinated for free. These clinics are open to students, employees, families, friends, etc. Pre-registration is available at the linked site, but walk-ins are also welcome.
TEXT OF FARGO CASS PUBLIC HEALTH NEWS RELEASE
FARGO, N.D. (August 12, 2021) – Cass County, as of August 12, 2021, is now designated as having a high COVID-19 transmission rate. This Centers for Disease Control (CDC) designation is continuously monitored and updated based on an average of new cases, positivity rate, hospitalizations, deaths, and testing.
Similar to many counties across the nation, Cass County now joins 2469 other US counties with a “high transmission” designation driven by low vaccination rates and a higher transmission rate for the Delta variant. Active COVID-19 cases in Cass County are now at 242 cases, compared to 20 active cases on July 1. Active cases continue to span all age groups, including children under twelve who are not yet eligible for vaccination. Health Officer for Fargo Cass Public Health, Dr. Tracie Newman states “given this higher transmission status, we continue to stress the importance of vaccination to all who are eligible, as the majority of individuals being infected are in the unvaccinated population”.
The fully vaccinated rates in Cass County for twelve to eighteen year olds are approximately 40%, nineteen to twenty nine year olds around 43%, with a 50% vaccinated rate in the 30-39 year olds. Ages 40 and older are over 60% and higher as age categories increase.
According to CDC, the Delta variant has become the predominant variant, accounting for over 90% of cases in August. The ND Department of Health also confirms the Delta variant as the likely predominant variant in North Dakota. Important information about the Delta variant:
• The Delta variant is more contagious than previous strains, and may cause more than two times as many infections.
• People infected with the Delta variant carry much higher loads than with previous strains.
• The majority of hospitalizations and deaths continue to be among the unvaccinated.
• Though rare, vaccinated individuals who become infected can spread the Delta variant to others. Most “breakthrough infections” are mild, meaning the vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and death.
• In recent weeks, children under the age of 12 have made up a substantially higher proportion of overall infections. A trend that is expected to continue.
In accordance with CDC guidance, Fargo Cass Public Health continues to recommend a layered approach to prevention for the community, including masking in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status, social distancing, adequate ventilation, and handwashing to help control the spread of COVID-19.
FCPH offers free COVID-19 vaccine at the main location (1240 25th Street South) each Tuesday during walk-in clinics and also by appointment Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. For information on vaccine availability in our community, please see vaccinefinder.org.
Additional information is available here: www.FargoCassPublicHealth.com/covidvaccine.
Dr. Dean Bresciani
Dean L. Bresciani, President