Health officials confirmed the deaths of three Morton County women, two Morton County men, a Burleigh County woman, a Divide County man, a Richland County man and a Stutsman County man. All of the residents had underlying conditions, and only one was younger than 60 years old, according to the department.
The department says 256 North Dakotans have succumbed to the illness, and deaths have been mounting at rapid pace over the last three weeks. The nine deaths reported Thursday have been included in September’s death toll of 109 — by far North Dakota’s deadliest month of the pandemic.
At least 153 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 month. Five facilities in the state — two in Dickinson, one in Mandan, one in Velva and one in Bottineau — have more than 15 infected residents.
There are now 3,690 residents known to be infected with the virus, a slight rise from Wednesday.
North Dakota leads the nation in new COVID-19 cases per capita over the last week, according to the New York Times. The whole region is experiencing a surge in cases, with South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Montana and Minnesota all identified by the publication as states where infections are “high and staying high.”
The number of hospitalized residents with the illness rose from Wednesday to 106 — a new pandemic high. Twenty-two patients are in intensive care.
The record hospitalizations comes as the state’s hospitals endure severe staffing strains and a general lack of capacity. The latest health department records obtained by Forum News Service reveal there are only 22 available ICU beds and 248 regular inpatient beds in the whole state, including zero in Grand Forks and just two in Bismarck.
The state paints a misleading picture of hospital capacity on its COVID-19 dashboard, which shows 147 available ICU beds. The gaping disparity exists because the figures the department reports to the public are for licensed beds — not beds that actually are staffed by medical professionals, department spokeswoman Nicole Peske said. However, the dashboard now reports there are only 216 inpatient beds open in the state — even fewer than internal records suggest.
Thirty-seven counties reported at least one case Thursday, including many small, rural counties. Every county in the state except for Steele has at least one active case.
Eighty-one of the new cases reported Thursday came from Cass County, which includes Fargo. The state’s most populous county has 606 active cases. North Dakota State University has reported 71 cases of COVID-19 in the last two weeks.
Williams County, which includes Williston, reported 51 new cases. The county now has 276 active infections.
Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck, reported 44 new cases Thursday. The county has the most active cases in the state with 684. Morton County, which sits just west of Burleigh County and includes Mandan, reported 14 new cases and has 245 active cases.
Thirty-eight new cases came from Dickey County, which lies in southeastern North Dakota. The county now has 59 active cases and looks to be emerging as a rural hotspot, along with nearby Emmons County.
About 6.4% of the 5,853 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, but 12.7% 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 7.4% for all residents tested and 13.2% for tests taken on previously untested residents.
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