BISMARCK — North Dakota's COVID-19 hospitalizations and active cases held near last week's pandemic highs on Monday, Nov. 16, just three days after Gov. Doug Burgum announced a statewide mask mandate and other virus mitigation measures.

The North Dakota Department of Health also recorded seven new virus deaths in its latest report as the state's hospital system remained stretched through the weekend.

North Dakota has reported more COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita than any state in the nation over the last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A fall wave of the pandemic is sweeping the country, with national new case reports shattering previous pandemic records over the last two weeks.

About 10,900 people are currently infected with the virus in North Dakota, according to the Department of Health. The state has reported 743 total COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic, and about 57% of the state's deaths have come in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. On Monday, the state reported virus deaths in Barnes, Eddy, Dickey, Grand Forks, Stark, Stutsman and Walsh counties, six of the seven were male, and all 70 years old or older.

Three hundred and thirty-two people are currently hospitalized with the virus in North Dakota, with 294 people in inpatient care and 28 people are in intensive care.

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North Dakota is facing an extreme shortage of hospital beds, as COVID hospitalizations converge with strains on health care staffing and high noncoronavirus admissions. There are just 11 available intensive care beds and 181 regular inpatient beds in the whole state, according to the state's latest figures.

Burgum's decision Friday, Nov. 13, to enact a mask mandate was celebrated by members of the state's medical community, who had called on him to implement the mandate for months. Dr. Paul Carson, an infectious disease specialist who has consulted the state on its pandemic response strategy, welcomed the new measures and said he will look for a flattening of the state's new case trajectory in the next two to four weeks to gauge whether the state should take additional mitigation measures.

On Monday, the North Dakota Department of Health reported 1,089 new COVID positives.

  • Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck, reported 117 new cases Monday. The county has 1,645 residents known to be infected with the virus, making it the largest hot spot in the state.

  • Cass County, which includes Fargo, announced 225 new cases on Monday. The county now has 1,562 active positives, making it the second-largest hot spot in the state.
  • Ward County, which includes Minot, reported 50 new cases and now has 1,370 active positives.

About 14.2% of the 8,179 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, but 21.2% 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 15% for all residents tested and about 23.3% for tests taken on previously untested residents.

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

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