BISMARCK — A day after announcing the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in a single day, the North Dakota Department of Health on Wednesday, Nov. 25, reported a slight decrease in active COVD-19 cases.

With now 8,615 North Dakotans known to be infected with the virus, officials are strongly encouraging residents to limit holiday gatherings in fear that the number of cases could actively spike after Thanksgiving and into the December holiday season.

If cases do spike, public health experts warn they could overwhelm an already over-stretched hospital system.

COVID-19 cases seem to have plateaued in North Dakota for now, but around federal holidays, the reporting of new COVID-19 cases and deaths fluctuates, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Data show that around holidays earlier this year, like July 4th and Labor Day, the number of new cases reported seemed to drop or plateau, only to increase again in the weeks after.

Several reasons contribute to this, including a backlog of tests as some state offices and many testing sites do not operate on holidays and weekends. According to The COVID Tracking Project, officials nationwide will likely not be able to count the number of people who got COVID-19 over the Thanksgiving weekend until the second week of December.

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On Tuesday, North Dakota reported an additional six COVID-19 deaths, which now brings the state's overall death toll to 887 since March. The Department of Health said two COVID-19 deaths were misreported on Tuesday. The state is averaging 13 deaths per day in November, and it is North Dakota's deadliest month so far.

Tuesday's deaths included two residents of Cass County, two residents of Ward County and one each from Richland and Williams County.

More than 60% of the state's deaths have come in residents of nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.

North Dakota's COVID-19 outbreak continues to be one of the worst in the nation. The state leads the country in number of positive known cases per capita, though South Dakota recently eclipsed North Dakota in its per capita death rate, according to the CDC.

On Wednesday, the state announced 1,096 new COVID-19 cases and an additional eight hospitalizations. The state now has about 14% of its staffed beds available in hospitals statewide.

The 1,096 new cases reported Wednesday came from the following counties:

  • Cass County, which includes Fargo and West Fargo, reported 276 new cases Monday. The county now has 1,613 active positives, making it the largest hot spot in the state.

  • Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck, reported 205 new cases. The county has 1,321 residents known to be infected with the virus.

  • Ward County, which includes Minot, reported 113 new cases, bringing its active case count to 874.

About 12% of the 8,904 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result. North Dakota does not report a seven-day rolling average positivity rate, but Forum News Service calculated the rate to be about 13% for all tests.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at mgriffith@forumcomm.com.

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