North Dakota reports 23 COVID-19 deaths as active cases hold steady
North Dakota's active virus cases have plummeted over the last three weeks, but the state still ranks near the top of the country in new COVID-19 cases per capita.
BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of Health announced 23 COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, Dec. 10, and a small increase in overall active cases.
The deaths came from all over the state, including four from Burleigh County, four from Stutsman County, two from Cass, Morton and Pierce counties, and one each from Dickey, Grand Forks, McKenzie, McLean, Pembina, Renville, Traill and Wells counties. The department also reported the death of a Ramsey County woman in her 40s, much younger than the average age range of people who died with the virus in North Dakota.
The department says 1,103 North Dakotans have died with COVID-19 since March. The large disclosure of new deaths on Thursday also added to the death toll from November, by far North Dakota's deadliest month of the pandemic. Due to a reporting lag, the health department said that 15 of the 23 deaths in the latest report happened last month.
At least 622 of the state's deaths have come in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. There are nearly 239 infected nursing home residents in the state, and six facilities have double-digit active cases in residents, including Benedictine Living Community in Garrison, where 19 residents are known to have COVID-19.
Over the last month, active COVID-19 cases have steadily declined from more than 10,000 in mid November. Now, 4,596 North Dakotans are known to be infected with the virus, marking a slight increase of 42 individuals from Wednesday. Burgum said Wednesday that he wouldn't trade North Dakota's virus situation with any other state given the trend of shrinking active cases.
Most other states are seeing increased case counts like North Dakota did from August to November, though the state still ranks near the top of the country in new COVID-19 cases per capita over the last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
And even as active infections drop, hospitals are still dealing with high COVID-19 admissions. There are 302 residents hospitalized due to the illness, up 18 over the previous day.
The state's hospitals are still struggling with severe staffing crunches, and available hospital beds are scarce. Many nurses have been sidelined by the virus in recent months, exacerbating a nursing shortage that dates back to before the pandemic.
Epidemiologists often consider COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations to be lagging indicators of an outbreak, meaning they may not be affected by increasing or decreasing case counts until several weeks after the fact.
On Thursday, the health department reported 575 new cases, including:
- 136 from Cass County, which includes Fargo.
- 84 from Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck.
- 35 from Grand Forks County.
About 6.3% of the about 9,000 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, and an average of about 9.4% of those tested in the last two weeks got a positive result. Like active cases, the state's positivity rate has decreased substantially in the last month.
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Readers can reach Forum reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at firstname.lastname@example.org.