BISMARCK — New data released by the North Dakota Department of Health on Friday, Nov. 6, shows that one in every 15 North Dakotans has tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic hit the state in March.
More than 51,600 North Dakotans, or about 6.7% of residents, have tested positive for COVID-19 and have either recovered, died or are still living with the illness.
This rate is far from reaching herd immunity, however, as experts say that about 70% of the country's population would need to recover from COVID-19, according to the Mayo Clinic.
It is also not clear whether contracting and recovering COVID-19 makes a person immune, or how long that immunity would last. Even if 70% of the population is infected, this would lead to millions of deaths among those with underlying health conditions and older people, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The prevalence of COVID-19 in the state is increasing, and North Dakota's recent surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths is becoming unmanageable.
As of Friday, Nov. 6, almost 10,000 North Dakotans are known to be infected with the virus, 613 people have died either due to or with COVID-19 and the state's 14-day average positivity rate on all tests has nearly doubled in one month.
Gov. Doug Burgum pointed out at a news conference Thursday that the pandemic is getting worse in North Dakota, but other states in the Midwest and Great Plains are also experiencing increases in positivity rates and cases.
"Even though we're seeing records in our own state, (we) also, on a relative basis, know that we're performing better within some of the region," Burgum said Thursday.
Per capita, however, North Dakota is performing the worst in the United States with the highest death rate and positive case rate per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The state Health Department reported an additional 17 COVID-19 deaths Friday, including five residents of Ward County, four Burleigh County residents, three from Cass County, two from Dickey County and one each from LaMoure, Walsh and Wells counties. The ages of those whose deaths were announced ranged from 30 to 100.
The state has announced 65 COVID-19 deaths in the last five days, and there are now a record 9,814 active COVID-19 cases in the state.
With a total of 613 North Dakotans who have now succumbed to the illness, at least 342 of the state's deaths have come in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Minot's nursing homes are being hit hard by the virus, with 124 residents and 120 staff members testing positive collectively in Minot's Trinity Homes and Edgewood facilities as of Friday.
The North Dakota Department of Health on Friday also reported the state's first child with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome — a condition that affects children who have been infected with COVID-19. Parts of the body like brain, heart, lungs and kidneys can become inflamed, and the child can also experience fever, rash and vomiting, among other symptoms. The long-term effects of the condition are unknown.
The department of health says the North Dakota child has been discharged from the hospital.
“This development is an unfortunate reminder that COVID-19 can impact people of any age, even children,” said Dr. Joan Connell, North Dakota's field medical officer.
Cases have also been increasing in North Dakota's tribal nations, and on Tuesday the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa announced it was implementing an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew for businesses and community members.
Rolette County, which encompasses the entire Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, reported a 19% positivity rate for individuals tested within the county in the last two weeks, according to an executive order issued by the tribal council. In addition, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa also enacted a mask mandate and both the curfew and mandate come with enforcement and penalties for noncompliance.
In acknowledgement of the worsening outbreak, Burgum on Thursday moved eight counties up to "high risk" and 14 counties up to "moderate risk" on the state's color-coded COVID-19 gauge. The move means there are no counties in the two lowest risk levels.
The number of hospitalized residents due to COVID-19 rose on Friday to 238, and about 9% of staffed hospital beds were available statewide.
There are just 10 available staffed intensive care beds and 169 staffed in-patient beds in the state, according to the latest figures reported by the North Dakota Department of Health.
On Friday, the state department of health announced that it was now calling individuals who test COVID-19 positive as it was experiencing delays with its e-notification system that alerts people of their positive COVID-19 test result.
The North Dakota Department of Health reported Friday a single-day high of 1,764 new cases out of a record 12,195 COVID-19 tests processed in one day.
Grand Forks County reported the most new cases Friday with 336, bringing its active case count up to 1,221.
Ward County, which encompasses Minot, reported 310 new cases, and the county now has 1,395 active cases.
About 16% of the 11,329 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, but 23% 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 15% for all residents tested and 25% for tests taken on previously untested residents.
Readers can reach reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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