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COVID-19 cases in North Dakota hit high point in recent variant waves; omicron town hall set

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North Dakota health officials on Tuesday reported 2,120 new COVID-19 cases as testing picked up with the start of the workweek, and active cases jumped 18% from the previous day.

The new case count is the highest during the recent waves of the highly contagious delta and omicron variants of the coronavirus. It's also the highest since the height of the pandemic in late 2020, before the availability of vaccines.

State health officials on Thursday will host a public discussion of topics surrounding omicron.

The state on Tuesday calculated a positivity rate of nearly 15% from 12,018 tests processed Monday, and the state's 14-day rolling test positivity rate surpassed 13% for the first time since November 2020. The state target is less than 5%.

Active COVID-19 cases soared to 4,546, a 144% increase from the start of the month, when omicron was just arriving in the state. Nearly one-fifth of the active cases are in Burleigh-Morton counties.

The state's coronavirus dashboard showed five more virus-related deaths, raising North Dakota's pandemic toll to 2,034. The Health Department no longer publicly reports the county, sex and age range of newly confirmed deaths. The dashboard death total for Morton County increased by one, to 132. Burleigh County's total was unchanged, at 284. Cass County, home to Fargo, saw its total rise by one, to a state-leading 291.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in North Dakota remained relatively stable, at 115. Health officials say many omicron cases result in few or no symptoms. The most recent state data showed a little under 9% of staffed inpatient beds available statewide and about 6% of intensive care unit beds open. In Bismarck, Sanford Health had no available staffed general care beds but one open ICU bed; CHI St. Alexius Health had no beds listed in either category.

There have been 184,613 confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Dakota during the pandemic that began in March 2020. There have been 178,033 recoveries and 7,071 hospitalizations.

Omicron town hall

The Health Department is hosting a virtual town hall at 11 a.m. Central time Thursday to discuss omicron.

It's open to the public, online via Microsoft Teams Live Event at https://health.nd.gov/covidtownhall. It also will be simulcast across the Health Department's Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels. No registration is necessary.

Speakers will include state Immunization Program Director Molly Howell, North Dakota State University Center for Immunization Research and Education Director Paul Carson, state Disease Control and Forensic Pathology Section Chief Kirby Kruger, and state Health Resources and Response Section Chief Tim Wiedrich.

Speakers also will answer submitted questions for a short period following prepared remarks.

More information

North Dakota continues to have one of the worst COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Agency data on Tuesday showed 64% of North Dakota adults being fully vaccinated. The rate for all vaccine-eligible people in the state -- age 5 and older -- is 57.1%.

The CDC recommends COVID-19 booster shots for all adults; 44.1% of North Dakota adults have received a third dose of vaccine, according to state data. The federal agency last week also recommended that adolescents ages 12-17 receive boosters as well. The state vaccine dashboard does not yet track third doses for that age group.

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

People can go to https://www.ndvax.org or call 866-207-2880 to see where COVID-19 vaccine is available near them. 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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