BISMARCK — North Dakota reported 235 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, Sept. 15, marking a drop in the state's active case count following a day of low testing.

The latest coronavirus numbers released by the North Dakota Department of Health showed a remarkably high positivity rate of more than 12%, but that figure that may have been skewed by the small batch of testing returns, which totaled fewer than 2,000.

The department Tuesday also confirmed the deaths of two men in their 80s, one in Burleigh County and the other in Morton County. Both men had underlying health conditions, according to the department.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the department says 172 North Dakotans have died from the illness, including 29 residents whose deaths were reported just this month. Ninety of the deaths since March have come in long-term care facilities.

In a news conference Monday afternoon, Sept. 14, Gov. Doug Burgum stressed that the virus's recent spread through nursing homes is "just too high."

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There are now 2,564 North Dakotans known to be infected with COVID-19, down from Monday's report. Sixty-two residents are hospitalized with the virus and 18 are in intensive care.

Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck, reported the largest number of new cases on Tuesday, at 79. The county has the most active cases in the state, and its active case count climbed on Tuesday to 545, even as statewide numbers dropped. The next-door Morton County, which encompasses Mandan, reported 30 new cases on Tuesday and has 218 active cases.

Twenty-seven of the new cases reported Tuesday came from Cass County. North Dakota State University reports 153 students, faculty and staff have tested positive in the last two weeks.

Stark County, which has emerged as another state hotspot in recent weeks, reported just six new cases on Tuesday, dropping its active count to 224.

Grand Forks County reported 10 new cases Tuesday, bringing the county to 246 active cases. The University of North Dakota reports 57 students, faculty and staff are infected with the virus, while 191 people linked to the university are currently in quarantine.

Thirty-six counties Tuesday reported at least one cornavirus, including many small, rural counties. All but three of the 53 counties in the state have at least one active case.

About 12.2% of the 1,930 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, but 16.1% of those tested for the first time came back positive.

North Dakota does not report a seven-day rolling average for positivity rate as many other states do, but Forum News Service calculated the rate to be 9.9% for tests taken on previously untested residents.

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Readers can reach reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at