BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of Health on Thursday, July 9, announced 99 new cases of COVID-19 on a single-day high of nearly 6,000 tests.

There are now 521 residents of the state known to be infected with the illness — more than double the number of active cases on North Dakota's recent low point of June 22. North Dakota's pandemic-high number of active cases came May 21, when 670 residents were infected. However, the state is now performing many more tests than it did then.

Only about 1.7% of the 5,980 test results announced Thursday came back positive.

Twenty-nine of the new cases came from Cass County, which includes Fargo and West Fargo. Of the 2,402 residents who have had the illness in the county, 134 are currently infected.

Twenty-three of the new cases came from Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck. The county now has the most known active cases in the state at 147 — nearly four times the amount it had two weeks ago. Five new cases were reported from Morton County, which includes Mandan. The county now has 42 active cases.

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Gov. Doug Burgum on Wednesday, July 9, said that state officials are closely monitoring the area's outbreak, but they aren't yet focused on establishing a coronavirus task force like they did in Fargo two months ago.

Renae Moch, the director of Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health, said the escalation of mass testing by state and local health officials in the capital city has significantly contributed to the rising case count. Moch said the real indicator of an outbreak, the rate of positive tests, remained low at 2%. If that figure creeps up as it did in Fargo during the May surge, Moch said officials would look into taking more drastic measures.

For most of April and May, the Bismarck area appeared to avoid any meaningful increases in cases, but Moch said the latest rise confirms what health officials knew all along: the virus has been in the community since the pandemic started, but now there's more testing for it. Though she knows residents are getting tired of hearing it, Moch said her agency would ramp up outreach efforts to encourage mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing. If locals don't observe those precautions, Moch said the outbreak could take a turn for the worse.

In addition to the new cases in the state's two largest metro areas, 10 new cases came from Walsh County, which lies north of Grand Forks, while six came from Williams County, which includes Williston. The other 26 new cases Thursday came from 14 different counties.

The department says 85 North Dakotans have died from the illness, including 70 residents of Cass County. Sixty-one of the deaths have come in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

There are still four deaths that remain in a "presumed positive" category, which means a medical professional determined that COVID-19 was a cause of death but the person was not tested for the illness while he or she was alive.

Burgum said the state has the capacity to perform at least 5,000 tests per day, and he has urged residents to seek testing whether they have symptoms or not. The state has put on free mass testing events in the state's biggest metro areas for about a month.

The governor noted Wednesday that the state will soon begin establishing fixed COVID-19 testing sites in large metro areas such as Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck, Dickinson and Jamestown. He said testing at the sites will still be free and open to all who come.

A total of 4,070 North Dakota residents have tested positive, but 3,464 have recovered. There are 30 residents hospitalized with the illness, up four from Wednesday.

The state has announced the results of 214,167 tests, but some residents have been tested more than once.

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