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Active COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations keep rising in North Dakota; Burleigh-Morton has bad October

Active COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations keep rising in North Dakota; Burleigh-Morton has bad October


Active cases of COVID-19 in North Dakota have taken another jump, and coronavirus-related hospitalizations have risen for a sixth straight day, according to the Department of Health.

Meanwhile, a state committee studying how to ethically distribute a coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available approved guidelines for vaccinating hospital staff. And the Mandan School Board made adjustments to the district's pandemic plan. 

State officials on Monday also reported the coronavirus-related deaths of a 70-year-old Burleigh County woman, a 90-year-old Morton County man and seven other people in the counties of Dickey, Dunn, McLean, Sargent and Stutsman. Burleigh-Morton's pandemic death toll rose to 135, and the state's increased to 540 -- about half of which occurred in October.

Health officials reported 975 new cases of COVID-19, including 152 in Burleigh-Morton, raising the state total since the onset of the pandemic in mid-March to 46,015. Burleigh-Morton ended October with more than 4,700 new cases -- nearly half of the area's pandemic total.

The Associated Press reported that North Dakota enters November continuing to lead the nation in the number of new COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Coronavirus in North Dakota Active

Active cases statewide set a record for a fifth straight day, at 8,440, according to the health department data. Burleigh and Morton combined had 1,668 active cases, down slightly from Sunday's pandemic high.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in North Dakota rose by 15, to 215, a new daily high. A month ago, hospitalizations were at 111.

There were 19 staffed intensive care beds and 206 staffed inpatient beds available in North Dakota, according to state data. Sanford Health Bismarck had one staffed intensive care bed and five staffed inpatient beds available. CHI St. Alexius Medical Center in Bismarck had no staffed intensive care beds and 10 staffed inpatient beds available.

The number of state residents tested for coronavirus at least once is at 297,447 and total tests number 884,557, including 8,204 completed Sunday. Statewide, there have been 37,035 recoveries and 1,656 hospitalizations.

Records are based off the state's daily reports. Data on the health department's dashboard often is revised later.

Vaccine ethics

North Dakota's COVID-19 Vaccine Ethics Advisory Committee on Monday approved guidelines for how hospitals should vaccinate their staff when a vaccine becomes available.

The committee recommends that hospitals prioritize vaccine doses for staff who interact directly with patients; are considered part of a hospital's critical infrastructure, such as the emergency room or intensive care unit; and who are at high risk for adverse health effects if diagnosed with COVID-19.

Committee members agreed that hospitals should be allowed to choose how to vaccinate staff but should be given guidelines on how to do so.

"I think we would give them a general framework which to operate underneath, but they're going to have a better understanding and eyes on the issue on what's important to keep that facility operating and serving their citizens the best," Acting State Health Officer Dirk Wilke said.

The first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are expected to be limited, meaning there won't be enough doses for everyone who wants or needs to be vaccinated.

The committee is advisory. Any decisions about how to allocate vaccine will come from the state’s COVID-19 Unified Command, which is led by the state health officer and the National Guard's adjutant general, and includes state Cabinet officials and other leaders.

Mandan School Board

The Mandan Public School Board unanimously approved changes to the district's COVID-19 Response Plan on Monday night.

The updates eliminate the three color-coded phases used to determine what kind of instructional model students learn in, following guidance from the state, Assistant Superintendent Jeff Fastnacht said. The district still will use the ND Smart Restart county risk levels to guide decision-making.

The plan also states that the district will seek input from stakeholders, such as the school board, staff and parents, when making changes related to COVID-19.

Risk level and mandate

Burleigh, Morton and 22 other North Dakota counties are in the orange "high risk" level on the state's five-level color-coded system; 15 are in the yellow "moderate risk" level; 14 are in the green "low risk" level; and none are in the blue "new normal" level.

The risk level determines what sort of coronavirus-related protocols are in place under the ND Smart Restart Plan for everything from businesses to family gatherings. The guidelines are not enforced. The state reviews the county levels weekly.

A mask mandate passed by the Bismarck City Commission took effect Sunday. It is not enforced and carries no penalties. More information can be found at and on social media at and

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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