North Dakota deaths from COVID-19 climb to 40 as nursing home cases keep rising

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The department reports that the women, both in their 90s, had underlying health conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says older adults and people with HIV, diabetes, asthma, liver disease or other conditions that compromise one’s immune system are at a greater risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19.

Forty North Dakotans, including 31 residents of Cass County, have now died from the illness that has claimed more than 83,000 lives nationwide. Department of Health spokeswoman Nicole Peske said 29 of the deaths have come in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

The department also confirmed 76 new cases of COVID-19 on 1,113 tests Wednesday.

The total number of positive tests for the virus in the state is at 1,647, but 969 people have recovered from the illness, including 92 announced Wednesday. There are 37 residents hospitalized with the illness, down one from Tuesday.

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Sixty-nine of the new cases Wednesday came from Cass County, which encompasses Fargo and West Fargo. The county now has 935 known cases, but the department reports that 528 residents have recovered after previously testing positive.

Cass County accounts for nearly 60% of the active COVID-19 cases but only about 22% of the total tests done in North Dakota. Gov. Doug Burgum said Monday half of the COVID-19 testing in North Dakota should be done in Cass County and that the state aims to close the testing disparity in the county this week, but the gap has not closed at all so far.

Four of the new cases came from Grand Forks County, which has the second most cases in the state at 297. The department lists 156 residents of the county as having recovered from the illness.

The other three new cases Wednesday came from Burleigh, Morton and Walsh counties.

The number of tests evaluated each day has varied considerably over the past two weeks. The state fell short of its goal to announce at least 1,800 tests per day Tuesday and Wednesday, but more than 2,100 tests were announced Monday. Even with the recent fluctuations, North Dakota ranks among the top states in the country in testing per capita.

Burgum said the state and its health care providers aim to test 4,000 people per day by the end of the month. He has maintained throughout the pandemic that widespread available testing is the key to restoring normalcy to work and home life.

A total of 48,945 tests for the virus have been reported by the state, and 39 counties now have had at least one known case of the illness. However, Burgum has previously said that the cases are reported based on patients’ mailing addresses rather than their actual location in the state, so it is unknown where infected patients are isolating or seeking medical help.

Nursing home cases continue ascent

The number of cases in residents and employees of nursing homes and long-term care facilities increased by 17 on Wednesday to 303. Nursing homes are particularly susceptible to deadly outbreaks of COVID-19 because many residents are 65 or older and have underlying conditions.

More than 70% of the cases tied to nursing homes have come in Fargo. Villa Maria rehabilitation center in Fargo has the most cases of any facility in the state at 48. There are also 43 cases tied to Rosewood on Broadway, 30 tied to Eventide and 23 tied to Bethany on University.

Four nursing homes in Grand Forks have reported 18 total cases of the illness in the past two weeks, including Valley Senior Living on Columbia with 10 cases and Woodside Village Valley Senior Living with six cases.

Ave Maria Village in Jamestown has reported five known cases of illness, and Edgewood Jamestown confirmed three staff or resident cases. Eventide Jamestown was added to the list Tuesday with one case.

St. Luke’s Home and Kensington-Evergreen Senior Living Communities in Dickinson have reported three total cases of the illness.

Burgum said Monday the state is aiming to test every resident of a nursing home or long-term care facility in North Dakota by the end of the week. He noted then that testing had already been completed at more than two-thirds of the facilities in the state.

The governor said three long-term care facilities have refused testing, but the health department has not yet provided information to Forum News Service about the facilities.

An executive order restricting visitation at nursing homes remains in place.

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