Cases of the coronavirus are rising earlier and more rapidly than last year’s fall surge.

Gov. Doug Burgum said at a Wednesday press conference that while North Dakota was proud to lead the nation in testing and vaccine rollouts early on, that may no longer be the case.

“Currently, we’re in 42nd place out of 50 states. So we are at the bottom 10 in terms of vaccination,” he said.

The governor, along with various health experts from around the state, addressed a clear contrast in vaccination rates in the western half of the state compared to the east.

He said counties in western North Dakota and eastern Montana rival some of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation.

This recent surge is causing healthcare providers like Sanford to set up their ethics committee once again, and make some difficult decisions.

“Those decisions include who gets the next bed, who gets the next ventilator and how many patients can you truly take care of with a limited number of staff,” said Dr. Michael LaBeau of Sanford Health.

Dr. Jeffery Sather from Trinity Health in Minot says the public, while making some frustrating decisions, can act as a partner to healthcare providers.

“Wearing this mask that worked for the last year and a half, it’s frustrating — but it’s a choice of frustration. When you’re the patient on the bed, some of those choices are a lot bigger deal,” said Dr. Sather.

Some hospitals are now filled to capacity, pushing healthcare workers to the limit once again. Patients are being diverted to hospitals, in some cases more than 300 miles away from home.

“Just like going to a restaurant, if all the tables are full, how do you serve more people? Well, you could sit on the floor I imagine. It’s going to change the way we deliver care,” said Dr. Sather.

These cases are projected to continue to rise for the next four to six weeks, and if this rate continues, could surpass last year’s surge.

For unvaccinated individuals that contracted the virus but now wish to roll up their sleeves, it is recommended to wait at least 11 days after showing symptoms.

“Individuals can wait up to 90 days to be vaccinated, that they’re likely protected for at least 90 days after having had COVID,” said Molly Howell, with the North Dakota Department of Health.

Health experts are urging vaccinations to help ease the pressure on a staff already stretched thin.

To find the nearest testing site to you, head to