BISMARCK — Fourteen days have passed since Christmas Day, and the North Dakota Health Department said it is seeing the beginning of a bump in the number of COVID-19 cases.

In the past 10 days, about 20% of the people who tested COVID-19 positive said they attended a holiday gathering, according to state field epidemiologist Brenton Nesemeier. In comparison, of the people who tested COVID-19 positive in the weeks after Thanksgiving, about 10% of those people said they attending a gathering for the holiday.

"We also know that the concern obviously is that many people have multiple Christmas gatherings ... versus Thanksgiving is usually just a one-holiday celebration," Nesemeier said.

In North Dakota, the number of COVID-19 cases decreased after Thanksgiving in November. Now, even though it is still a little early to tell definitively, the Department of Health is seeing an increase in positive cases.

Nesemeier said the increase in cases cannot yet be officially linked to holiday gatherings, and it will know in the next week or two whether holiday gatherings helped increase the prevalence of COVID-19 in North Dakota.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

It is important to keep social distancing and wearing masks, Nesemeier said, because now that the COVID-19 vaccine is here people need to remain vigilant until they are eligible for the vaccine.

On Friday, Jan. 8, the North Dakota Department of Health reported 11 COVID-19 deaths and 34 additional known active cases.

The deaths announced Friday were of residents in their 50s to 90s, including three women from Cass County, two residents of McLean County and one each from Barnes, Grand Forks, Morton, Rolette, Stutsman and Ward counties.

These additional North Dakotans bring the state's overall death toll to 1,352. At least 272 of the state's deaths occurred in December alone, and the Department of Health likely will add deaths to December's toll as death investigations conclude.

More than 800 of the state's deaths have come in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and there are 71 infected nursing home residents in the state, according to the Department of Health.

Long-term care facility residents and staff across North Dakota began receiving COVID-19 vaccinations last week. They are expected to continue administering the first doses throughout January.

Active COVID-19 cases in North Dakota slightly climbed to 2,122, which is still far less than the more than 10,000 residents known to be infected in mid-November.

With the new year, North Dakota has seen a small increase in cases after the Christmas and New Year holidays. However, cases are likely to fluctuate for the next couple of weeks as the holiday season saw fewer COVID-19 testing events nationwide, according to The COVID-19 Tracking Project.

The department reported 303 new cases on Friday, including:

  • 52 from Cass County, which includes Fargo and West Fargo.
  • 36 from Burleigh County, which includes Bismarck.

  • 30 from Grand Forks County.

About 4% of the 7,189 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, and the average positivity rate of those tested in the last two weeks is about 4.7%.

As a public service, we’ve opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status. If this coverage is important to you, please consider supporting local journalism by clicking on the subscribe button in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage.

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