BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of health on Thursday, July 30, announced 75 new COVID-19 cases and one additional death.

A Ramsey County woman with underlying health conditions died from the illness. Nearly all 103 North Dakotans who have died from COVID-19 had underlying health conditions.

In the almost 5,800 positive tests in which the source of exposure is known, more than 77% of positives contracted the illness from community spread or close contact, according to the Department of Health's website.

North Dakota created a new task force earlier this week that will aim to tackle a worsening coronavirus outbreak in the Burleigh-Morton County area.

The outbreak in the state's capital and surrounding areas is partly attributed to Fourth of July celebrations, in which some residents participated in large gatherings, director of Burleigh-Bismarck Public Health Renae Moch said at a news conference Wednesday.

"That's kind of been our concern ... people at the Fourth of July for the large gatherings and family gatherings," Moch said. "We're starting to see the impacts of that here in Burleigh County."

The Burleigh-Morton COVID-19 Task Force will mirror 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.

On Wednesday, Sanford Health Bismarck President Michael LeBeau said about 60-65 of the 3,000 Sanford Health Bismarck employees are in quarantine from testing positive for COVID-19 or being exposed to it.

Burleigh County has more than double the number of active cases of any county in the state at 279. Health officials Thursday confirmed another 27 new cases in residents of the county.

Statewide, the number of active cases slightly decreased from Wednesday with 1,017 now known to be infected. Gov. Doug Burgum said Tuesday at a news conference 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:

  • Twenty-two of the new cases came from Cass County.

  • Thirteen are from the Burleigh-Morton County region, which encompasses neighboring cities Bismarck and Mandan.
  • Ten new cases are from Williams County, which includes Williston.
  • Five are from Richland County, which encompasses Wahpeton.

All counties in North Dakota now have reported cases of COVID-19, but some currently have zero active cases.

Cass County, which includes Fargo and West Fargo, has 129 active cases and 76 of its 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 103 deaths have occurred within nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

There are now 43 residents currently hospitalized with COVID-19, up four from numbers reported Wednesday.

About 1.9% of the 3,975 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 week-long period came back positive.

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 6,301 North Dakota residents have tested positive, but 5,181 have recovered.

The state has announced the results of 304,978 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