Since the end of July, positivity rates of the coronavirus have increased in North Dakota by more than six-fold.

Tuesday, the North Dakota Department of Health held a Town Hall to discuss the importance of COVID testing, monoclonal antibody treatment and the use of Ivermectin.

The event started with a brief overview of the situation in our state, with the younger population accounting for increasing cases.

Kirby Kruger from the Department of Health stated that since the beginning of the pandemic, zero to 19 year-olds accounted for about 18 percent of cases in North Dakota.

Recently, that number has skyrocketed.

“In the last week, that percentage for zero to 19 years of age has ranged from 27 percent to 36 percent,” said Kruger.

COVID testing is intended to help prevent the spread of the virus, and there are several tests available.

Several PCR tests that detect the presence of the virus are used, with a new Multiplex PCR test used at larger healthcare facilities.

This multiplex test detects other viruses and bacteria as well, such as the common cold and influenza.

Positive tests are then sent to be analyzed to determine the variant, and a large portion of these confirm the delta variant.

Dr. Christie Massen, from the North Dakota Department of Health, said, “About 99% of the samples that are sequenced in our laboratory are the delta variant.”

For those that do test positive, monoclonal antibody treatment can be very effective to fight off the virus.

The antibodies essentially bind to the virus and decrease the “viral load.”

Dr. Joshua Ranum, of West River Regional, said, “They cut the risk of hospitalization by about 70%.”

Kruger closed the Town Hall by discussing the use of Ivermectin to treat the virus.

The drug is FDA approved for a limited scope of treatment, including head lice, scabies and parasitic worms.

However, it is not approved for the treatment of coronavirus.

“You should be taking the drug for an FDA-approved reason, following the direction of your doctor,” said Kruger.

Prescriptions for the drug have increased 24-fold since before the pandemic.

The panel of health experts agreed that the vaccine is still the best way to fight the virus.

There are 15 staffed ICU beds and three pediatric ICU beds available in the state.

Also new, the Health Department acquired 50 ventilators, bringing the total number on-hand to 64.