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North Dakota reports record high in active cases for 10th consecutive day; nearly 400 pandemic deaths so far

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 — Wrapping up one of the worst weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic in North Dakota, the Department of Health on Saturday, Oct. 17, announced the deaths of another 11 individuals and a new high in active cases.

The additional deaths bring the North Dakota's death toll to a record 399, of which more than 60% occurred in September and October alone.

The majority of Saturday's 11 deaths are North Dakotans from rural counties like Dunn, Foster, Grant, McHenry, McLean, Stutsman and Traill County. Two people who died were from Morton County, and one each from Burleigh and Stark County. All of the victims were in their 70s to 90s and had underlying health conditions, according to the state.

With still two weeks of October remaining, the month's death toll has already eclipsed September's, according to the North Dakota Department of Health, as the state is averaging more than seven COVID-19 deaths per day.

At least 245 of the state's deaths have come in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, many of which have been decimated by the virus in the last two months.


North Dakota has reported the most COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita in the nation over the last week, according to The New York Times . Both Towner and Oliver County rank among the top 10 counties in the nation with the highest number of recent COVID-19 cases per resident.

There are now 5,370 North Dakotans known to be infected with the virus. It's the tenth day in a row the state has set a new record in active cases.

The number of hospitalized residents from COVID-19 remained at 148 on Saturday, and 31 residents with the virus are in intensive care.

Cass County, which includes Fargo and West Fargo, reported 181 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday. The county now has 1,075 residents known to be infected with the illness — the most of the state's 53 counties.

Burleigh County, which includes Bismarck, closely trails behind Cass County with 924 active cases. The county announced an additional 151 cases Saturday.

Grand Forks County reported 54 new cases, bringing its active case count to 401.

About 11% of the 7,241 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, but 17% 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 9.7% for all residents tested and 17% for tests taken on previously untested residents. Both percentages are at their highest since Forum News Service started tracking the figures at the beginning of August.


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

As a public service, we’ve opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status. If this coverage is important to you, please consider supporting local journalism by clicking on the subscribe button in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage.

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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