October has been by far the deadliest month of the pandemic for North Dakota, reaching 205 deaths in the state’s latest report, or over 43% of the state’s 476 total virus deaths.
Nine of the 15 deaths reported Tuesday were concentrated in Ward County, which has emerged as one of the worst hot spots in the state over the last month. The state also reported two deaths in Grand Forks County, and one each in Burleigh, McHenry, Ransom and Williams counties.
And while active cases dropped due to a high number of recoveries on Tuesday, North Dakota has reported the most COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita in the nation over the last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Upper Midwest has experienced a region-wide surge of the virus, with South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Montana all experiencing climbing case numbers in the last month.
North Dakota also disclosed 11 new nursing home deaths on Tuesday, bringing the death toll in long-term care facilities up to 291. The virus has torn through several facilities around the state in recent months, and well over half of the state’s pandemic deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities. At least seven facilities have 14 or more infected residents, according to the Department of Health’s dashboard.
The state is battling through a shortage of available hospital beds as COVID hospitalizations converge with strains on health care staffing and high noncoronavirus admissions. There are 27 available intensive care beds and 241 regular, inpatient beds in the whole state, according to the state’s latest figures.
The situation is especially urgent in Bismarck and Minot. Bismarck’s two hospitals have three available ICU beds and eight inpatient beds between them, while Minot has no available ICU beds and just five inpatient beds. Grand Forks has three ICU beds and 21 inpatient beds, and Dickinson has four ICU beds and six inpatient beds.
The availability of staffed beds in Fargo’s three hospitals has also tightened since Monday, leaving 13 ICU beds and 21 inpatient beds available in the city.
The number of hospitalized residents due to the illness dropped to 161 on Tuesday. Another 95 patients were initially hospitalized with some other ailment but later tested positive for COVID-19. Thirty-eight residents with the virus are in intensive care.
Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck, overtook Cass County as the largest hot spot in the state on Tuesday, reporting 176 new cases and bringing its active total up to 1,099. The neighboring Morton County, which includes Mandan, reported 45 new cases and has 341 active cases.
But a large hot spot persists in Cass County, which includes Fargo, where the state reported 135 new positives on Tuesday and 1,076 active cases.
Grand Forks County reported 146 new cases on Tuesday and has the third largest number of active cases in the state, at 785.
All but three of North Dakota’s 53 counties reported at least one new positive on Tuesday, and every county in the state is reporting at least one currently active case.
The state has temporarily taken down its K-12 dashboard, which has been reporting active cases and close contacts with positive cases among students in the North Dakota school system, noting that the page will be restored as soon as possible.
About 14.8% of the 6,505 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, but 19.8% 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 11.2% for all residents tested and 20.1% for tests taken on previously untested residents.
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Readers can reach reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at firstname.lastname@example.org.