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COVID-19 hospitalizations, deaths rise in North Dakota; state urges booster shots

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Molly Howell, the North Dakota Department of Health's immunization program manager

State health officials on Thanksgiving reported another increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and seven more coronavirus-related deaths.

They also urged adults to get a booster shot of vaccine, as the holiday season begins.

The Health Department's virus dashboard on Thursday showed 656 new virus cases, and 3,279 active cases, with 548 of them in Burleigh and Morton counties.

The new deaths brought the state's pandemic toll to 1,874, including 82 so far in November, making it the sixth-deadliest pandemic month in North Dakota. The state no longer publicly reports the county, sex and age range of newly confirmed deaths. The dashboard death total for Morton County increased by one Thursday, to 125; Burleigh County's total was unchanged, at 257.

COVID-19 hospitalizations rose to 181 -- up 21 from two days earlier. Hospital beds have been in short supply in recent months due in large part to the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.

The most recent state data showed about 8.5% of staffed inpatient beds available statewide and about 7.5% of intensive care unit beds open. CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck had three available staffed general care beds and two ICU beds; Sanford Health Bismarck had six open inpatient beds and no ICU beds.

There have been 160,550 confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Dakota during the pandemic, with 155,397 recoveries and 6,406 hospitalizations. 

The state's 14-day rolling average test positivity rate was at 7.36%. The state target of less than 5% hasn't been met for more than three months.

Vaccine boosters

The Health Department is encouraging eligible North Dakotans to get a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, as more people gather or travel for the holidays.

“COVID-19 vaccines are an important tool for preventing serious outcomes and slowing the spread of COVID-19,” state Immunization Director Molly Howell said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated guidelines for boosters, expanding eligibility to anyone over 18 who has completed a primary series -- two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or one of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine.

Booster shots are recommended for adults who received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at least six months ago, or who received one dose of the J&J vaccine at least two months ago. People can “mix and match” the vaccines following a primary series. For more information, go to https://bit.ly/3p28mc9.

More information

The state's vaccine dashboard shows 57% of eligible North Dakota adults and 34.7% of adolescents in the 12-18 age group are considered fully vaccinated; 8.3% of children 5-11 have received an initial vaccine dose. Shots for that age group are just getting underway. 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 Towner, according to the CDC's COVID-19 data tracker website. The CDC recommends people in those risk categories wear masks in public indoor settings.

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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