North Dakota's Health Department on Wednesday reported a big jump in coronavirus hospitalizations and six more deaths.
The agency's virus dashboard showed 176 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, up 16 from Tuesday and the highest reported total in a month. Hospitalizations have fluctuated roughly between 150 and 200 since the beginning of October, coinciding with the onset of the highly contagious delta variant of the virus. But they hadn't been above 170 since Oct. 25.
Hospital beds have been in short supply in recent months due to delta, a staffing shortage and people catching up on medical procedures delayed earlier in the pandemic.
The most recent state data showed about 8.5% of staffed inpatient beds available statewide and about 5.5% 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 three open inpatient beds and no ICU beds.
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The new deaths brought the state's pandemic toll to 1,867, including 76 so far in November -- tied with January as the sixth-deadliest pandemic month in North Dakota. October was the fourth-deadliest, with 165 deaths. The pandemic has persisted for about 20 months.
The state no longer publicly reports the county, sex and age range of newly confirmed deaths. The dashboard death total for Burleigh County increased by two on Wednesday, to 257; Morton County's total remained at 124.
There have been 159,842 confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Dakota during the pandemic, with 154,855 recoveries and 6,382 hospitalizations.
Wednesday's dashboard showed 530 newly confirmed virus cases. There were 3,120 active cases statewide and 527 in Burleigh-Morton counties. The active case totals rose slightly from Tuesday.
The state's 14-day rolling average test positivity rate was at 7.43%. The state target of less than 5% hasn't been met for more than three months.
The state's vaccine dashboard shows 56.9% of eligible North Dakota adults and 34.7% of adolescents in the 12-18 age group are considered fully vaccinated; 7.8% 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 and Cavalier, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention'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 email@example.com.