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COVID-19 claims youngest victim in North Dakota as state announces Bismarck area task force

A pandemic-high 1,084 North Dakotans are known to be infected with the illness as active cases continue to trend in "the wrong direction," Gov. Doug Burgum said Tuesday.

3D print of a SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—virus particle. The virus surface (blue) is covered with spike proteins (red) that enable the virus to enter and infect human cells. (Submitted / National Institutes of Health)

BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of Health confirmed Tuesday, July 28, that a McKenzie County woman in her 20s with no underlying health conditions became the 100th person in North Dakota to officially die of COVID-19.

The woman's death is an outlier, as nearly all North Dakotans who have died from the virus had underlying health conditions. She is the youngest person to die from COVID-19 in the state.

The department also announced 157 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, a near-record during the state's outbreak of the illness.

Gov. Doug Burgum announced Tuesday the formation of a new task force that will aim to tackle a worsening coronavirus outbreak in the Bismarck metropolitan area.


The Burleigh-Morton COVID-19 Task Force mirrors a group created nearly three months ago to tackle Fargo's outbreak and will include local health and political officials, business and health care leaders and representatives of state government, Burgum said.

Burgum said the task force will do outreach within the capital city area to promote mask-wearing, social distancing and hand-washing, but he offered few other details of what the group will do to extinguish the recent uptick in infections.

Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck, has nearly double the number of active cases of any county in the state at 289. Health officials confirmed another 51 new cases in residents of the county on Tuesday.

A pandemic-high 1,084 North Dakotans are known to be infected with the illness as active cases continue to trend in "the wrong direction," Burgum said Tuesday.

Despite the climbing active cases, Burgum said the state is not moving from "low" to "moderate" risk level, which would add back precautionary guidelines for businesses to follow. Burgum said moving up in risk level depends on 11 variables, but he offered little insight into his decision-making on the topic.

Of the new cases reported Tuesday:

  • Sixty-two are from the Burleigh-Morton County region, which encompasses neighboring cities Bismarck and Mandan.
  • Twenty-six of the new cases came from Cass County.
  • Twelve new cases are from Stark County, which includes Dickinson.
  • Seven of the new cases came from Ward County, which encompasses Minot.
  • Adams County reported its first two cases today.

All counties in North Dakota now have reported cases of COVID-19.
The department says 75 residents of Cass County, which includes Fargo and West Fargo, have died from the illness. Sixty-five of the deaths have occurred within 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 they were alive.

There are now 35 residents currently hospitalized with COVID-19, down eight from numbers reported Monday.

About 3.6% of the 4,310 test results announced Tuesday came back positive. Johns Hopkins University , which calculates the rate of positives using only those tested for the first time, found that an average of 6.9% of North Dakotans tested over a weeklong period came back positive.

Forty-six of Tuesday's 157 positives came on re-tests, while the other 111 came in residents tested for the first time, according to the department's health analytics team.

North Dakota does not regularly report a seven-day rolling average for positivity rate as many other states do, but Burgum said last week that he was committed to including a 14-day rolling average rate on the state health department website.

Burgum said he did not think the state was artificially lowering the positivity rate by including test results from residents being retested, adding that adding re-tests to the equation was a necessary piece of information for policy-making.

The governor added that the state will aim to perform 8,000 test per day over the next two months. To meet that goal, Burgum said the state is establishing 19 testing sites that will operate every day at the same location.

A total of 6,141 North Dakota residents have tested positive, but 4,957 have recovered.


The state has announced the results of 297,512 tests, but many residents have been tested more than once.

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

Michelle (she/her, English speaker) is a Bismarck-based journalist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and Report for America, a national service organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities.
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