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North Dakota to conduct fewer COVID-19 investigations as omicron spreads

Last week, the number of active cases in North Dakota nearly tripled, prompting the Department of Health to reconsider how it conducts case investigations because of its limited resources.

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A coronavirus graphic. Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of Health on Monday, Jan. 10, announced it will scale back the number of COVID-19 case investigations it conducts as active cases in the state skyrocketed last week.

North Dakota will no longer contact all residents who test positive for the virus and instead prioritize case investigations for K-12 and higher education students, people over 55 years of age and those in health care, long-term care facilities and congregate living settings.

“The rapid emergence of the Omicron variant and rising cases have resulted in refocusing our priorities for case work. As a result, not all people with recent diagnosis will be contacted by a case worker for an interview,” North Dakota disease control chief Kirby Kruger said in a statement.

Prior to Monday's announcement, the Department of Health tried to interview every person who tested positive and whose case was reported to the department, Kruger said.

The goal was to instruct the person through isolation procedures and how they could best avoid infecting others.

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Last week, however, the number of active cases in North Dakota nearly tripled, prompting the Department of Health to reconsider how it conducts case investigations because of its limited resources.

In addition, the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that cut the recommended isolation period in half from 10 to five days also contributed to the department's decision to reduce the scope of North Dakota's case investigations, Kruger said. State case investigators usually contact a person around three to four days after their positive test. At that point, the call from a case worker is practically moot, as the CDC-recommended isolation period is almost over, Kruger said.

Officials say the highly infectious omicron variant is driving the number of COVID-19 cases up nationwide, and earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the omicron variant accounted for 95% of new cases in the U.S.

The following are COVID-19 case rates, deaths and hospitalizations from the North Dakota Department of Health as of Monday, Jan. 10.

Statewide case rates

  • NEW CASES REPORTED: 617
  • ACTIVE CASES: 3,860
  • DAILY POSITIVITY RATE: 29.2%
  • 14-DAY ROLLING POSITIVITY RATE: 12.8%
  • TOTAL KNOWN CASES THROUGHOUT PANDEMIC: 183,013
  • TOTAL RECOVERED THROUGHOUT PANDEMIC: 177,124

North Dakota's 14-day rolling positivity rate was 12.8% as of Sunday, Jan. 9 — the highest since late November 2020.
Cass County, which encompasses Fargo, has the most active cases in the state with 1,172. Burleigh County, which includes Bismarck, has 589 active cases, and Grand Forks County has 428 active cases.

Hospitalizations, deaths

  • ACTIVE HOSPITALIZATIONS: 122
  • DEATHS REPORTED MONDAY: 1
  • TOTAL DEATHS: 2,029

The Department of Health reported one additional COVID-19 death on Monday.
Nearly 80% of residents who were hospitalized in the state last week were not fully vaccinated, according to the Department of Health.

Vaccinations

  • FIRST DOSE ADMINISTERED: 478,301 (62.8% of population)
  • FULL VACCINE COVERAGE: 403,982 (53% of population)
  • BOOSTER DOSES ADMINISTERED: 162,929 (20.9% of population)

The top two figures are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , while the bottom figure is from the state's vaccine dashboard .

Readers can reach Forum 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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