ND continues to fare worse in COVID-19 deaths than its neighbors

The state's death rate is not a surprise because cases and hospitalizations have been rising, said one infectious disease specialist.

Bethany on 42nd employees go through drive up testing for COVID-19 before the morning shift on Wednesday, April 22, in south Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — In the early days of November, North Dakota continues to be hit harder by deaths related to COVID-19 than its neighboring states.

North Dakota has experienced 73 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people since the start of the pandemic, compared with South Dakota’s 49 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people, Minnesota’s 45 deaths per 100,000 and Montana’s 36 per 100,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Dr. Paul Carson, an infectious disease specialist and public health professor at North Dakota State University, said it’s not a surprise because deaths are trailing indicators after cases and hospitalizations.
North Dakota has led the country in cases per capita for nearly three weeks running and has been in the top five for hospitalizations per capita, he said.

Many of the people who died were residents of long-term care centers, where COVID-19 outbreaks have multiplied in the last month or so.


More employees of those centers are contracting the virus, which spills over to the residents under their care despite frequent testing.

“When you have the epidemic raging in your surrounding community, it should not be surprising that it is extremely difficult to keep out of our nursing home doors,” Carson said.

Other states whose nursing homes are faring better are likewise doing better in their surrounding communities, he added.

October was North Dakota's deadliest month by far since the start of the pandemic, with 275 deaths, and more are likely to be added as death investigations continue.

Approximately half of the state’s 555 total COVID-19 deaths thus far occurred in October alone.

An additional 15 deaths were reported by the North Dakota Department of Health on Tuesday, Nov. 3. At least 336 of the state's deaths have come in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

“The idea that we can somehow ‘shelter the vulnerable’ while letting the epidemic go in the broader community is a fatally flawed idea, as we have seen demonstrated in our state,” Carson said.

Huebner is a 35+ year veteran of broadcast and print journalism in Fargo-Moorhead.
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