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17 more COVID-19 deaths reported in North Dakota; hospital beds still scarce

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North Dakota's Health Department has confirmed 17 more coronavirus-related deaths.

The new deaths reflected on the agency's coronavirus dashboard Tuesday brought the state's pandemic toll to 1,735. The state no longer publicly reports the county, sex and age range of newly confirmed deaths. The dashboard death total for Burleigh County increased by five, to 236, and the total for Morton County rose by one, to 115.

The 17 deaths were the most reported in one day since January, but there have been days in October with reports of 10 and 11 deaths. The increase Tuesday was “due to normal fluctuation," and not because of any sort of backlog in reporting, the Health Department told the Tribune.

"We receive reports of deaths daily from multiple sources and there was no one source that attributed to the majority of deaths reported on Monday” and reflected on Tuesday's dashboard, the department said.

October is the deadliest COVID-19 month in North Dakota in 2021, and the fifth-deadliest during the pandemic, at 109 deaths with five days still to go. The pandemic began 20 months ago, in March 2020. Deaths spiked late last year, with a total of 1,079 occurring in October, November and December. They've surged again with the onset of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus in late summer and early fall.

Virus cases have begun to trend downward, though active cases rose slightly statewide on Tuesday, to 3,279. Burleigh-Morton's total was stable, at 586.

The state reported 747 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, and calculated a positivity rate of 9.73%. The 14-day rolling average test positivity rate ticked above 7% again, at 7.03%, after dropping below that mark Monday for the first time in a month. The state target is less than 5%. The reported rate hasn't met that threshold since mid-August.

COVID-19 hospitalizations dropped by four from Monday, to 169, the lowest reported total since Oct. 5. Still, fewer than 9% of staffed inpatient beds statewide were available, and fewer than 6% of intensive care unit beds were available.

The most recent state data showed 182 available staffed inpatient beds and 14 available ICU beds statewide. In Bismarck, neither Sanford Health nor CHI St. Alexius Health had any available general care beds. Sanford had one available ICU bed; CHI St. Alexius had none.

The Health Department has confirmed 145,744 COVID-19 cases in North Dakota during the pandemic, with 140,730 recoveries and 5,853 hospitalizations.

More information

The state's vaccine dashboard shows 55% of eligible North Dakota adults and 33% of adolescents in the 12-18 age group are considered fully vaccinated. North Dakota has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S., according to the CDC. People can go to https://www.ndvax.org or call 866-207-2880 to see where COVID-19 vaccine is available near them.

The coronavirus transmission risk is considered substantial or high in all of North Dakota's 53 counties but Cavalier and Slope, according to the CDC's COVID-19 data tracker website. The CDC recommends people in those risk categories wear masks in public indoor settings. The transmission risk in the Bismarck-Mandan region is considered high.

A list of free COVID-19 testing offered by local public health units is at health.nd.gov/covidtesting. For more detailed information on coronavirus in North Dakota, go to www.health.nd.gov/coronavirus. For more information on coronavirus variants, go to https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/transmission/variant.html.

Reach Blake Nicholson at 701-250-8266 or blake.nicholson@bismarcktribune.com.

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