BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of health on Wednesday, July 29, announced 89 new COVID-19 cases and the death of two individuals, now bringing the state's COVID-19 death toll to 102 North Dakotans.

A Cass County woman in her 80s with underlying health conditions and a Burleigh County man in his 80s with no underlying health conditions died from the illness, state health officials announced Wednesday.

The number of Wednesday's new cases decreased by approximately 43% from the numbers reported on Tuesday. Along with an almost record-high number of new cases reported in one day, a McKenzie County woman in her 20s with no underlying health conditions became the 100th person in North Dakota to die of COVID-19, according to the health department. She is the youngest person to die from COVID-19 in the state.

Nearly all North Dakotans who have died from the virus had underlying health conditions.

Gov. Doug Burgum Tuesday announced the formation of a new task force that will aim to tackle a worsening coronavirus outbreak in the Bismarck metropolitan area.

The Burleigh-Morton COVID-19 Task Force mirrors a group created nearly three months ago to tackle Fargo's outbreak and will include local health and political officials, business and health care leaders and representatives of state government, Burgum said.

Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck, has more than double the number of active cases of any county in the state at 285. Health officials confirmed another 27 new cases in residents of the county on Wednesday.

Statewide, the number of active cases decreased from Tuesday with 1,038 now known to be infected. Burgum said Tuesday the overall increasing trend in the number of active cases is going in "the wrong direction."

Burgum also said Tuesday the state is not moving from "low" to "moderate" risk level, which would bring back precautionary guidelines for businesses to follow. Burgum said moving up in risk level depends on 11 variables, but he offered little insight into his decision-making on the topic.

Of the new cases reported Wednesday:

  • Thirty-six are from the Burleigh-Morton County region, which encompasses neighboring cities Bismarck and Mandan.
  • Ten of the new cases came from Cass County.
  • Six of the new cases came from Ward County, which includes Minot.
  • Five new cases are from Mountrail County, which encompasses New Town and a portion of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.

All counties in North Dakota now have reported cases of COVID-19.

Cass County, which includes Fargo and West Fargo, has 120 active cases and 76 residents have died from the illness.

There are still four deaths that remain in a "presumed positive" category, which means a medical professional determined that COVID-19 was a cause of death, but the person was not tested for the illness while they were alive. Sixty-five of the state's deaths have occurred within nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

There are now 39 residents currently hospitalized with COVID-19, up four from numbers reported Tuesday.

About 2.6% of the 3,458 test results announced Wednesday came back positive. Johns Hopkins University, which calculates the rate of positives using only those tested for the first time, found an average of 7.3% of North Dakotans tested over a weeklong period came back positive.

Twenty-four of Wednesday's positives came on re-tests, while the other 65 came in residents tested for the first time, according to the department's health analytics team.

North Dakota does not regularly report a seven-day rolling average for positivity rate as many other states do, but Burgum said he did not think the state was artificially lowering the positivity rate by including test results from residents being retested.

The governor added the state will aim to perform 8,000 test per day over the next two months. To meet that goal, Burgum said the state is establishing 19 testing sites that will operate every day at the same location.

A total of 6,227 North Dakota residents have tested positive, but 5,087 have recovered.

The state has announced the results of 300,971 tests, but many residents have been tested more than once.

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