BISMARCK — Though the state reported another drop in active COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, Dec. 1, the North Dakota Department of Health announced an additional 27 COVID-19 deaths.

More than half of the 27 deaths announced Tuesday were people from rural counties, such as Barnes, Renville and Mountrail counties. All victims were between the ages of 50 and 100.

Per capita, North Dakota's rural areas are also reporting the highest number of active COVID-19 cases. Griggs County, about 100 miles southwest of Grand Forks, leads the state with 288 active cases per 10,000 people. In contrast, Cass County, which encompasses Fargo and West Fargo, has 64 active cases per 10,000 people.

The North Dakota Department of Health reported a high number of COVID-19 deaths Tuesday because of a reporting lag from over the weekend, as is normal for the number of tests and deaths reported on Tuesdays, the state said.

North Dakota's pandemic death toll is now at 954 residents, and November was the state's deadliest month by far with 388 reported so far. November's death count will likely increase as death investigations conclude.

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The 954 total deaths means one in every 800 North Dakotans has died from the virus in a state with a population of 762,000, according to 2019's census estimate.

This new milestone comes exactly two weeks after the state marked one in every 1,000 North Dakotans had died from the virus.

At least 554 of the state's deaths have come in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. There are more than 500 infected nursing home residents and 544 infected staff in the state.

The Department of Health says COVID-19 test results are delayed by approximately four days, as labs nationwide are experiencing a backlog in tests. This delay is concerning because residents may be spreading the disease without knowing that they have it.

In wake of this delay, the Department of Health recommends North Dakotans quarantine until they receive their test result, and residents with symptoms should isolate regardless of their test result.

For about two weeks, active COVID-19 cases have been decreasing in North Dakota. There are now 5,686 residents known to be infected with the virus.

As of Monday, South Dakota has now eclipsed North Dakota in the most COVID-19 cases per capita and deaths per capita over the last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hospitalizations decreased Tuesday and there are now 319 residents hospitalized due to the illness.

The state's hospitals are under severe staffing crunches, and available hospital beds are scarce. About 14% of staffed beds were available statewide as of Tuesday.

With only 3,347 tests reported, the 409 new cases announced Tuesday included the following:

  • Cass County reported 169 new cases, and the county has 1,162 active cases.

  • Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck, reported an additional 33 cases, and it now has 827 active cases.
  • Ramsey, Williams and Grand Forks County all reported an additional 18 COVID-19 positives.

About 13.4% of the 3,059 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, and an average of 12.4% of those tested in the last two weeks got a positive result. Like active cases, the state's positivity rate has decreased in the last two weeks.

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

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