North Dakota active COVID cases dip for third straight day, as state continues to lead national outbreak

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The state Department of Health Wednesday reported 12 new COVID deaths, bringing the death toll for the month of October up to 217. October has been by far the deadliest month of the pandemic in North Dakota, accounting for 44% of the state’s total virus deaths.

And while active cases dropped due to a high number of recoveries on Wednesday, North Dakota has reported the most COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita in the nation over the last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Upper Midwest has experienced a region-wide surge of the virus, with South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Montana all experiencing rapidly climbing case numbers in the last month.

The Department of Health also retroactively reported nearly 500 recoveries from earlier in the week, a quirk of the state’s reporting that technically makes Wednesday’s total of 6,247 active cases a pandemic high even though the state reported higher active totals earlier in the week. The department is reporting recoveries on a significant lag, according to its health analytics team, meaning that the daily active case totals are tentative and being updated at later dates.

Ward County, which encompasses Minot, is experiencing a severe COVID outbreak and has seen an alarming jump in deaths this week. After nine of the 15 deaths reported on Tuesday came from Ward, the county recorded another five deaths on Wednesday. One-hundred and forty new COVID positives were disclosed in Ward in the state’s latest report.

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The state also reported two deaths in Burleigh, three deaths in LaMoure, and one death each in Logan and Mountrail counties on Wednesday. The death of a Burleigh County man marks the second time this week that someone in their 30s has died of the virus in North Dakota.

The state is battling through a shortage of available hospital beds as COVID hospitalizations converge with strains on health care staffing and high noncoronavirus admissions. There are 23 available intensive care beds and 240 regular, inpatient beds in the whole state, according to the state’s latest figures.

The situation is especially urgent in Bismarck and Minot. Bismarck’s two hospitals have two available ICU beds and 10 inpatient beds between them, while Minot has two ICU beds and just eight inpatient beds. The availability of staffed beds in Fargo’s three hospitals has also tightened considerably since earlier this week, leaving four ICU beds and 17 inpatient beds available in the city.

There are seven ICU beds and 42 inpatient beds left in Grand Forks, and four ICU beds and seven inpatient beds in Dickinson, according the most recent disclosures.

The number of hospitalized residents due to the illness jumped to 178 on Wednesday, with the state reporting 17 new COVID admissions. Another 106 patients were initially hospitalized with some other ailment but later tested positive for COVID-19. Forty-one residents with the virus are in intensive care.

Cass County, which encompasses Fargo, and Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck, have vied for the largest hot spot in the state over the last week. Cass reported 134 new cases on Wednesday and currently has the most active cases in the state, with 1,076. Burleigh reported 147 new cases on Wednesday and has an active case total of 1,068.

All but 10 of North Dakota’s 53 counties reported at least one new positive on Wednesday, and every county in the state is reporting at least one currently active case.

The state has temporarily taken down its K-12 dashboard, which has been reporting active cases and close contacts with positive cases among students in the North Dakota school system, noting that the page will be restored as soon as possible.

About 10.2% of the 8,026 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, but 22.1% of residents tested for the first time got a positive result.

North Dakota does not report a seven-day rolling average for positivity rate, but Forum News Service calculated the rate to be 11.4% for all residents tested and 20.4% for tests taken on previously untested residents.

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Readers can reach reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at awillis@forumcomm.com.

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