FARGO — Those tested for coronavirus infection in Cass County continue to be more than twice as likely to test positive than the North Dakota average, but the rate continues to slowly decline.

The average rate of those who test positive for the virus in Cass County was 5.63% over the past two weeks compared to 2.28% for the state, Dr. Paul Carson, a member of the Red River Valley COVID-19 Task Force said Wednesday, June 3.

Nursing homes have been a major source of outbreaks and deaths during the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

In Cass County, the epicenter of the pandemic in North Dakota, 20% of cases and 85% of deaths stem from nursing homes, Carson said.

“This has been an intense area of focus for us, with a number of efforts,” including targeted testing, he said.

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Active cases in both Cass and Clay counties have been steadily falling. In Cass County, 1,408 of 1,783 infected have recovered, leaving 344 active cases, while in Clay County 29 of 435 cases remain active, state figures show.

Although positive cases in Cass County initially increased due to more intensive testing, the number of positive cases has begun to decline, a positive sign along with the decline in active cases, Carson said.

“We think some of those efforts are starting to bear fruit,” he said.

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The number of hospitalizations and deaths has remained stable, even when the number of positive cases increased. There have been 55 deaths in Cass County and 29 deaths in Clay County.

“Those have remained flat,” Carson said of hospitalizations and deaths, two key indicators the task force is tracking.

On Wednesday, Sanford Health had 23 patients hospitalized for COVID-19, down from a recent range of 40 to 50, said Dr. Doug Griffin, Sanford’s chief medical officer in Fargo.

“The numbers have been declining for the past couple of weeks,” he said.

Essentia Health continues to have five to 10 COVID-19 hospital patients, said Dr. Richard Vetter, Essentia’s chief medical officer in Fargo.

The New York Times on Wednesday ranked Fargo 12th on a list of metropolitan areas that have seen the greatest drop in new cases over the past week.

Last week, the Fargo area had 846 new cases, a number that dropped this week to 645, or a decrease of 81.9 per 100,000 residents, according to The New York Times analysis.

Sanford and Essentia report that they have ample testing and urge anyone who has symptoms, or who was in contact with someone who has COVID-19, to call their provider to come in and be tested.

Public health officials urged people who participated in the mass demonstration Saturday, May 30, in support of Black Lives Matter and George Floyd, a man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, to seek testing if they develop symptoms.

That’s also true for those who responded to the demonstrations in Fargo and West Fargo or elsewhere as well as those who helped clean up, public health officials said.

Work continues on reopening businesses. Restaurants and bars in North Dakota now can operate at 75% capacity, up from 50% earlier in the pandemic, and gatherings now can be up to 500.

Health officials still do not recommend opening dance floors, said Chris Ohman, an environmental health practitioner at Fargo Cass Public Health.

“The goal is to keep businesses open, not to close them,” Ohman said, adding that aggressive testing helps to accomplish that aim.

Watch a video of the public health briefing on coronavirus.

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