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Active COVID-19 cases in North Dakota drop below 10,000; 16 more deaths reported

Active COVID-19 cases in North Dakota drop below 10,000; 16 more deaths reported

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Active COVID-19 cases in North Dakota on Wednesday were below 10,000 for the first time in 12 days, and coronavirus-related hospitalizations dropped a second straight day.

The Department of Health reported 16 new coronavirus-related deaths, however, raising the state's pandemic total to 785 -- nearly one-fourth of them in Burleigh and Morton counties.

The new deaths of people ranging in age from their 50s to their 90s included three in Burleigh and one in Morton, along with victims in six other counties. 

Health officials reported 1,275 new COVID-19 cases, including 191 in Burleigh and 68 in Morton, raising the state total to 67,230. Active cases statewide dropped a fourth straight day, to 9,977, including 1,940 in Burleigh-Morton. 

Coronavirus-related hospitalizations dropped by seven, to 297. Statewide, there were 16 staffed intensive care beds open and 179 non-ICU beds, according to the most recent state data. In Bismarck, Sanford Health had one staffed ICU bed available and CHI St. Alexius Health had none. Both had six non-ICU staffed beds open.

There have been 56,468 recoveries statewide since the onset of the pandemic in mid-March and 2,307 hospitalizations. The number of state residents tested for coronavirus at least once is at 328,910 and total tests number 1,033,592, including 8,488 completed Tuesday.

Coronavirus in North Dakota Active

State Health Council

North Dakota’s State Health Council will send a letter to Gov. Doug Burgum, thanking him for supporting Interim State Health Officer Dirk Wilke’s statewide mask mandate ordered last Friday.

The health department's governing and advisory body on Wednesday heard several recommendations from Dr. Stephen McDonough, a Bismarck pediatrician who worked for the state agency for 15 years. He asked the council to support the mask mandate, to request the county-level coronavirus risk categorization be revamped to reflect new cases per 100,000 people and mask usage in each county, and to survey mask wearing and social distancing every month and release the results, among other measures.

He also proposed the governor implement mask mandate penalties, including $25 and $100 citations for first and second offenses, respectively, and community service on the third.

“The time for happy talk is over and the time for tough love needs to start,” McDonough told the nine-member council.

Council Chairman Duane Pool said the letter is consistent with McDonough’s recommendation to show support for the mask mandate.

He also said the council has previously discussed some of the items McDonough broached, having asked to be made aware of a mask survey and also having discussed messaging to the public on masks. The board will continue to discuss his and others' recommendations.

But "the idea of us having significant management responsibility and oversight of daily or timely actions is not terribly pragmatic," Pool said, given how infrequently the council meets.

The council also heard updates from the interim state health officer and other health officials regarding aspects of the state’s pandemic response. The council next meets Dec. 16.

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 https://bit.ly/38NiT4r and https://bit.ly/3kDdVtb

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 www.health.nd.gov/healthmetrics. Information on COVID-19 in K-12 schools is at https://www.health.nd.gov/k-12-school-dashboard. For more detailed information on coronavirus in North Dakota, go to health.nd.gov/coronavirus.

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

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