Two Dickinson nursing homes have the highest number of active COVID-19 cases in North Dakota, according to data reported by the ND Department of Health.

Kensington Evergreen has the highest number of active positive residents in the state - 42; St. Benedict's Health Care Center, which is now Benedictine Living Community, has 33.

Both long-term care facilities also have a high number of active positive staff members compared to other facilities in the state. Evergreen has 17; St. Benedict's has 26.

Both facilities have a total of 59 active cases reported. The next closest are Miller Pointe and Sunset Drive Prospera, both of which are in Mandan and have a total of 52 reported active cases.

According to its website, the data on long-term care facilities "reflects facilities that have had positive COVID-19 residents or staff within the last 60 days. After 60 days without a staff member or resident testing positive for COVID-19, they are removed from the list."

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Ashley Gloystein-Klatt, national director of marketing for Agemark Senior Living, the parent company that owns Evergreen, said their current data shows that the facility has 46 positive residents and eight positive staff members.

Gloystein-Klatt said that the facility employees 73 people, but she could not confirm the exact number of residents currently housed in the facility.

"It's tough to say exactly how many residents we have right now because we have couples and singles," Gloystein-Klatt said.

She said the facility has 79 apartments, but about 8-10 are unoccupied. By those numbers, and considering that some of the rooms have couples, the facility houses anywhere from 69 to 138 residents.

This means that between 33% and 66% of the facility's residents have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 60 days.

"Our company has taken this really seriously really from day one ... We have really ramped up our policies in general from the beginning, policies related to infection control with the goal to prevent any kind of spread of COVID-19 ... so like sanitation, screening of our employees, screening of residents; doing things like when they come to work, take their temperature, ask a series of questions ... We use the CDC screening tool," Gloystein-Klatt said.

St. Benedict's could not confirm the number of residents at its facility, either, but it is licensed for 124.

"We're wearing personal protective equipment. Testing to rapidly identify folks who are actively infected; screening to identify people who might have signs or symptoms," Jon Frantsvog, executive director of Benedictine Living Community in Dickinson.

Some visitors are allowed in the facility, but they are limited.

"We've got some specific requirements for visitation associated with compassionate visits, so there are possibilities, but those get to be very tightly controlled and under certain specific compassionate situations," Frantsvog said.

Both long-term care facilities mentioned the increase in COVID-19 cases in Dickinson, but neither know how the outbreaks started.

"COVID doesn't pay any attention to where doors and windows are, and when it's all over the community, it's going to impact every portion of the community," Frantsvog said.

Nearly 44% of Stark County's COVID-19 cases have stemmed from community spread, according to data provided by the NDDoH.

Other long-term care facilities in Dickinson seem to be fairing better, according to the NDDoH data. St. Luke's Home has just four total active COVID cases, three of which are staff members. Edgewood Hawks Pointe has just two, one a resident and one a staff member. Country House and Benedictine Court are both reporting zero active cases.

According to the Joint Information Center, the NDDoH is taking steps to address the rise in COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities. These steps include prioritizing testing of residents and staff with the goal of returning results within 24 hours; prioritizing contract tracing and follow-up with residents and staff; using emergency medical technicians to conduct test swabbing; and using nurses from the NDDoH's Department Operations Center to provide staff coverage at facilities as needed.

“Protecting the most vulnerable is our top priority in North Dakota’s COVID-19 response, and since the beginning the state has taken proactive measures to safeguard residents and staff in long-term care facilities and other congregate settings,” State Health Officer Dr. Paul Mariani said. “With these adjustments, we are placing even more emphasis on doing everything we can to protect residents and staff while still allowing for safe, responsible visitation that is so important to residents’ mental health and well-being."

Mariani made the connection between the increasing number of cases at long-term care facilities and the increasing number of cases the communities where they reside.

"The recent increase in cases in these facilities is a reflection of the increased spread of coronavirus in our communities at large, which makes it even more important for North Dakotans to practice good COVID-19 etiquette: social distance, wear a mask, wash hands frequently and avoid large gatherings," he said.