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North Dakota COVID-19 hospitalizations reach record high; active cases drop slightly

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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 — With North Dakota enduring multiple record-breaking days of grim COVID-19 milestones last week, the state's department of health reported on Monday, Sept. 28, a slight drop in active cases and record-high number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

Hospitalized residents totaled 105 Monday, with 18 in intensive care. There are now 3,669 residents known to be infected with the virus, and the state announced an additional 260 positive cases on Monday.

Hospitals in North Dakota are almost at capacity with non-COVID-19 patients. The state's largest hospitals have said they have enough space for COVID-19 patients, but the number of patients with other medical issues are likely flocking to hospitals in increased rates due to needed care being put off in the middle of the pandemic.

On Sunday, the state said it met with leaders of Bismarck's largest hospitals to discuss plans to handle COVID-19 patients as cases continue to rise. Michael LeBeau, president of Sanford Health Bismarck, said the hospital will announce a plan later this week to increase bed capacity for its patients seeking care.

"As our state continues to see record numbers of COVID-19 cases, it’s more important than ever that we understand the challenges facing our hospitals and caregivers to ensure that there is a bed available for every patient who needs one,” Gov. Doug Burgum said in a statement.

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The state's death toll is now at 234 individuals, with officials reporting three additional deaths: a Burleigh County man in his 80s, a Burleigh County woman in her 60s and a Rolette County man in his 80s. All had underlying health conditions, like the majority of North Dakotans who have died from the illness.

September has been North Dakota's deadliest month of the pandemic, with about 36% of the state's deaths occurring in the month so far.

Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck, reported the highest number of new cases Monday with 69 additional cases. The county continues to have the most active cases in the state with 719 residents known to be infected with the illness.

Fifty-six of the new cases reported Monday came from Cass County, which includes Fargo, and the county now has 528 active cases. North Dakota State University in Cass County has reported 87 cases of COVID-19 in the last two weeks as of Monday.

Williams County, which includes Williston, reported an additional 28 cases Monday. It now has 243 active cases.

About 7% of the 3,867 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, but 12.6% of residents tested for the first time got a positive result.

North Dakota does not report a seven-day rolling average for positivity rate, but Forum News Service calculated the rate to be 7.14% for all residents tested and 13.5% for tests taken on previously untested residents. The positivity rate for previously untested residents is the highest since Forum News Service began calculating the rate nearly two months ago.

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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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