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ND case numbers rising due to increased transmission and more testing

FARGO — Daily coronavirus case numbers for North Dakota came in at more than 100 for multiple days in a row. July 13 was the first time the state reported more than 100 cases in a day.

Local infectious disease experts are saying it is because of both higher transmission and more testing efforts. More people are spreading the disease, but not necessarily in Cass County.

Dr. Paul Carson, an infectious disease expert with NDSU and member of the Red River Valley COVID-19 Task Force, said far more cases are coming out in areas outside Cass County than they were in May and June. Cass numbers, while steadily rising, are still lower than its peak.

"That, again, is a product of both more testing, and probably more transmissions that are really going on out there," Dr. Carson explained.

The number of tests being done are up statewide, but again, lower in Cass County compared to earlier in the summer.

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Desi Fleming with Fargo Cass Public Health said mass testing won't be planned in the foreseeable future, since their targeted testing efforts are proving to be more effective.

"It wasn't being helpful for us," Fleming said. "We were finding very low positivity rates with our mass testing."

Hospitalizations are going up, mostly outside of Cass, but Dr. Carson said North Dakota's hospitals are nowhere close to being overwhelmed. But if we're not careful — things could change this fall.

"As we move more indoors, as Fall comes, school starts, and we are in these confined settings over prolonged periods of time, I think the risk will substantially go up," Dr. Carson said.

To prevent things from getting worse, he said the community should take masks seriously.

"They sort of get associated with social isolation and lockdowns and all that," Dr. Carson added. "But I actually see them as a way to prevent all that. I see them as a path to freedom."

"If we don't do those things, then we are going to see our numbers really increase, which is also concerning as we go into flu season," Fleming said, also talking about social distancing practices.

He said several recent studies show masks, and even simple face coverings, are effective at keeping its wearer from spreading the disease. It is something they were not sure about when the pandemic started since the science behind preventing its spread was still new.

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