BISMARCK — With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the North Dakota Department of Health is urging people to limit their holiday gatherings to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In a video message released Saturday, Nov. 21, the Department of Health released some tips for celebrating a safe Thanksgiving and overall urged people to limit holiday gatherings and celebrate in-person with people who live in the same household.

"When it comes to gatherings, smaller is better," J'Patrick Fahn, a doctor from CHI St. Alexius Health, said in the video message. "As the number of attendees grows, so does the risk."

Models show that the next coming weeks are going to be critical for the state, which is why health officials nationwide, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are urging people to not travel this year for the holiday.

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North Dakota could report anywhere from 322 to 808 additional COVID-19 deaths by Dec. 30, according to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and only the actions of North Dakotans can determine what course the pandemic takes from here.

On Monday, the state announced 710 new COVID-19 and an additional six COVID-19 deaths, bringing the state's overall death toll to 846. Three of the deaths were residents of Burleigh County and one each from Cass, Grand Forks and Ward County.

Of the 846 deaths, almost 60% were from nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

North Dakota continues to have one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the nation and leads the nation with the most number of positive known cases per capita. South Dakota eclipsed North Dakota in its per capita death rate, but the neighboring states topped the charts in the number of deaths per capita as of Sunday, according to the CDC.

Hospitals statewide remain short-staffed, and on Monday the North Dakota Emergency Commission approved allocating $15 million to hospital staffing statewide from the state's over $1.25 billion in CARES Act funds. Hospital staffing has become so dire that 60 Air Force nurses were deployed to North Dakota to work in hospitals across the state.

The state had 22 available staffed intensive care beds and 223 staffed in-patient beds in the state as of Sunday, according to the Department of Health's latest figures.

On Monday, the Department of Health reported 710 new COVID-19 positives, for 9,854 active cases statewide:

  • Cass County, which includes Fargo and West Fargo, reported 194 new cases Monday. The county now has 1,621 active positives, making it the largest hot spot in the state.

  • Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck, reported 103 new cases. The county has 1,499 residents known to be infected with the virus.

  • Grand Forks County reported 66 new cases and now has 1,005 active positives.

About 11% of the 6,455 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result. North Dakota does not report a seven-day rolling average positivity rate, but Forum News Service calculated the rate to be about 14% for all tests.

Readers can reach reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at

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