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Nearly 900 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in North Dakota; officials encourage flu shots

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Gov. Doug Burgum gets a flu shot on Monday.

North Dakota's Health Department on Tuesday reported nearly 900 new cases of COVID-19 and three more deaths.

Active coronavirus cases increased by nearly 400 from Monday, to 3,694, with 1,070 in Burleigh and Morton counties. Burleigh County alone has nearly one-fourth of the state total.

Health officials calculated a 14-day rolling average test positivity rate of 6.92%, nearly 2 percentage points above the state target of under 5%. The 14-day rate started the year at about 4% and remained below the target until mid-August. It has been rising steadily for nearly three months with the onset of the highly contagious delta variant of the virus.

The three new deaths brought North Dakota's pandemic death toll to 1,607, including 34 reported in the past 14 days. The state no longer publicly reports the county, sex and age range of newly confirmed deaths, but Burleigh's total on the state's coronavirus dashboard Tuesday increased by one, to 213. Morton's total of 104 was unchanged.

There have been 130,574 confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Dakota since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, with 125,273 recoveries and 5,163 hospitalizations. There were 135 COVID-19 patients in North Dakota hospitals Tuesday, up two from Monday.

Hospital capacity remains a concern, with fewer than 12% of staffed beds available in North Dakota. The most recent state data showed 202 available staffed inpatient beds and 15 available intensive care unit beds statewide. In Bismarck, Sanford Health had two available staffed inpatient beds and two ICU beds; CHI St. Alexius Health had no available beds listed in either category.

Flu shots

State officials are urging people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 to get a shot, to help stem the pandemic spike. They're also encouraging people to get a flu shot, to help avoid overtaxing hospitals even more as flu season begins in North Dakota.

Officials including Gov. Doug Burgum gathered Monday to get their own flu shots and to advocate for others to do the same.

“Getting vaccinated is the safest and easiest way to protect yourself from the flu, while also protecting your family and community as well,” Burgum said in a statement.

North Dakota's flu season runs from October to May. Flu cases in the state last season were almost nonexistent due to COVID-19 mitigation measures, numbering fewer than 250. But the season before there were about 12,500 cases, with about 550 hospitalizations and more than 20 deaths, according to Health Department data.

There have been only 21 cases confirmed since Aug. 1, but the season typically doesn't peak until February and March.

More information

The state's vaccine dashboard shows 53.2% of eligible North Dakota adults and 30.4% 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 high in all of North Dakota's 53 counties except Eddy, 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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