BISMARCK — North Dakota's COVID-19 death toll increased by two on Friday, Sept. 24, as the state's active virus cases climbed to their highest point of the current wave.

Officials from the state Department of Health announced Friday morning that vaccine booster shots will likely begin to roll out late next week for frontline workers, North Dakotans over 65 years old and other at-risk groups.

The latest virus surge, fueled by the highly contagious delta variant, has put the state on a trajectory for a harsh fall. North Dakota has about 600 more active cases now than it did at the same time last year, and hospitals are already stretched for capacity with higher-than-normal noncoronavirus admissions. Just 17 intensive care beds were available across the state as of Thursday, according to a state Department of Health database.

Statewide case rates

  • NEW CASES REPORTED THURSDAY, SEPT. 23: 645
  • ACTIVE CASES*: 3,604
  • DAILY POSITIVITY RATE: 6.5%
  • TOTAL KNOWN CASES THROUGHOUT PANDEMIC: 128,552
  • TOTAL RECOVERED THROUGHOUT PANDEMIC: 123,351
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*The Department of Health often amends the number of active cases after they are first reported.

Burleigh County, which includes Bismarck, had the most known active cases on Friday with 755 cases. Cass County, which encompasses Fargo, had 664 active cases, and Stark County, which includes Dickinson, had 298.

The state's 14-day rolling average positivity rate was 6.4%, where it has hovered since late August.

Hospitalizations, deaths

  • ACTIVE HOSPITALIZATIONS: 121

  • DEATHS: 2

  • TOTAL DEATHS: 1,597

The health department reported two new deaths on Friday and 12 deaths over the course of the week.

People under 30 years old encompass more than 40% of North Dakota's active COVID-19 cases. As of Thursday, children under 12, an age group that is not yet eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, accounted for 710 of the state's active cases.

Vaccinations

  • FIRST DOSE ADMINISTERED*: 363,399 (54.8% of population ages 12 and up)

  • FULL VACCINE COVERAGE*: 336,167 (50.7% of population ages 12 and up)

*These figures come from the state's vaccine dashboard, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes vaccinations performed at federal sites, reports slightly higher vaccination rates.

North Dakota ranks in the bottom 10 states in vaccination rate for eligible residents, according to the CDC, but younger residents have begun to accept immunizations in greater rates as the delta variant tears through the state.

The Department of Health encourages individuals to get information about vaccines at www.health.nd.gov/covidvaccinelocator.

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