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COVID-19 hospitalizations hit new high in North Dakota as new state prevention measures take effect

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Coronavirus-related hospitalizations reached another high in North Dakota on Monday, as new statewide measures took effect aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, and keeping hospitals, schools and the economy open.

Hospitalizations rose by 10, to 332, more than double what they were a month ago. Statewide, there were 11 staffed intensive care beds open and 181 non-ICU beds, according to the most recent state data. In Bismarck, Sanford Health and CHI St. Alexius Health each had one staffed ICU bed available. Sanford had three non-ICU staffed beds open and CHI St. Alexius had six.

The Department of Health reported 1,089 new cases of COVID-19, including 117 in Burleigh County and 30 in Morton County, raising North Dakota's pandemic total to 64,885. Burleigh-Morton together had 2,150 active cases, one-fifth of the state total of 10,900.

The Associated Press reported that North Dakota has continued to rank first in the country for new cases per capita in the last two weeks. One in every 80 people in the state tested positive in the past week, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.

There have been 53,242 recoveries statewide since the onset of the pandemic in mid-March, 2,195 hospitalizations and 743 deaths, including seven new deaths reported Monday: victims in their 70s, 80s and 90s in the counties of Barnes, Eddy, Dickey, Grand Forks, Stark, Stutsman and Walsh.

Coronavirus in North Dakota Active

The number of state residents tested for coronavirus at least once is at 325,491 and total tests number 1,016,356, including 8,179 completed Sunday. 

Gov. Doug Burgum late Friday issued an executive order limiting capacity for bars and restaurants, along with various event venues. The measures took effect Monday and are in place through Dec. 13, along with an order suspending K-12 sports and extracurricular activities. A statewide mask mandate went into effect over the weekend.

Violators of any of the new measures could be fined at least $1,000, though Burgum in a statement said penalties would be reserved "for the most egregious violations that put public health at risk."

A group of doctors issued a statement late Sunday expressing support for the state's moves and urging state residents to comply despite the "significant sacrifices" that might be required.

"Know that this is not something that we need to bear forever," the statement said. "We are hopeful that if we all step up to make these sacrifices together now, we can hope for a flattening of the curve within 2 incubation cycles (or about 4 weeks). This will buy us precious time to deploy forthcoming better therapies, and efficacious vaccines, both of which appear to be close at hand."

The letter was signed by 86 doctors, including University of North Dakota medical school dean Joshua Wynne, the state's chief health strategist; Joan Connell, field medical officer and pediatrician for the health department; Stephen McDonough, of Bismarck, who worked for the health department for 15 years; North Dakota State University infectious disease specialist Paul Carson; and Bismarck pediatrician Kathy Anderson, president of the North Dakota chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Risk levels

A statewide mask mandate is in effect, along with enforced capacity restrictions for bars, restaurants, and various event venues. Violations could be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. Repeat violations could lead to a fine up to $1,500 and 30 days in jail. For more information, go to and

All North Dakota counties are in the orange "high risk" level on the state's five-level color-coded system. The risk level determines coronavirus-related protocols in place under the ND Smart Restart Plan for everything from businesses to family gatherings. Those protocols are not enforced.

The state's COVID-19 Smart Restart County Analysis data dashboard can be accessed at Information on COVID-19 in K-12 schools is at For more detailed information on coronavirus in North Dakota, go to

Reach Blake Nicholson at 701-250-8266 or


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