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COVID-19 deaths in North Dakota continue to mount, and hospitalizations remain high

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A surge in coronavirus-related deaths in North Dakota in recent weeks doesn't show any signs of waning, as state health officials on Tuesday reported 10 more deaths.

The 125 deaths in the past month and a half total nearly as many as in the previous seven months combined, according to the Health Department's coronavirus dashboard. Deaths and other COVID-19 data such as cases and hospitalizations waned after vaccines became available late last year, but all categories began spiking in August with the onset of the delta variant of the coronavirus, which health officials say is as contagious as chicken pox.

Virus-related deaths now total 1,690, with more than 7% of them occurring since the beginning of September. The state no longer publicly reports the county, sex and age range of newly confirmed deaths, but Burleigh County's total on the dashboard increased by one Tuesday, to 227, and Morton County's total rose by two, to 112.

The Health Department in the first 19 days of October has reported a total of 20 virus-related deaths in the two counties. Death certificate filings can take up to 10 days under state law, meaning some of those deaths occurred in September. The typical lag in the reporting of COVID-19 deaths to the state Health Department is one to three days.

Not all of the COVID-19 deaths reported by the state are due directly to the disease. The statewide breakdown is about 82% of deaths in which COVID-19 was the cause, and 17% in which the disease was present but not the primary cause of death. Death records were pending on Tuesday for five deaths.

More daily data

The Health Department confirmed 734 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday from 8,750 tests completed Monday, and calculated a positivity rate of 9.16%. The state's 14-day rolling average test positivity rate dropped for an eighth straight day, to 7.34%, but that was still well above the state target of less than 5%.

Active virus cases statewide rose slightly, to 3,310. They fell marginally in Burleigh-Morton counties, to 654.

COVID-19 hospitalizations rose by seven from Monday, to 198. A little more than 8% of staffed inpatient beds statewide were available. Fewer than 6% of ICU beds were available.

The most recent state data showed 176 available staffed inpatient beds and 14 available intensive care unit beds statewide. In Bismarck, Sanford Health had no general care beds available and one ICU bed; CHI St. Alexius Health had no beds listed in either category.

The Health Department has confirmed 142,407 COVID-19 cases during the pandemic, with 137,407 recoveries and 5,713 hospitalizations.

More information

The state's vaccine dashboard shows 54.6% of eligible North Dakota adults and 32.5% 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 federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 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 except Griggs, 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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