North Dakota health officials are cutting back on COVID-19 case investigations amid a surge in cases fueled by the new omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The highly contagious variant that has spread around the globe began hitting North Dakota hard last week. Confirmed omicron cases increased nearly 338% from the previous week, and active COVID-19 cases between Monday and Friday rose 175%. Johns Hopkins University researchers said one in every 97 people in the state tested positive in the past week, The Associated Press reported.
“The rapid emergence of the omicron variant and rising cases have resulted in refocusing our priorities for case work. As a result, not all people with recent diagnosis will be contacted by a case worker for an interview,” Kirby Kruger, head of the Health Department's disease control division and forensic pathology section, said in a statement Monday.
Case workers will continue to investigate or help with investigations of cases in K-12 students, higher education students and people over 55, as well as cases in health care facilities, long-term care facilities and congregate settings.
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The Health Department urges people who test positive for COVID-19 to self-isolate for at least five days and follow guidance from their health care provider. For more details, go to https://www.health.nd.gov/news/nddoh-changes-made-covid-19-investigations. The department also has an isolation period calculator available at health.nd.gov/covidcalculator. A COVID-19 Hotline can be reached at 1-866-207-2880.
The COVID-19 case spike slowed on Saturday and Sunday as testing dropped off, as it typically does over the weekend. But test positivity rates continue to soar.
The Health Department's coronavirus dashboard on Monday showed 617 new cases from 2,047 tests handled Sunday, and the state calculated a positivity rate of 29.2% -- meaning nearly one-third of all tests had a positive result. The state's 14-day rolling test positivity rate increased for a 14th consecutive day, to 12.79%. The state target is less than 5%.
Active COVID-19 cases stood at 3,860, down from 4,487 reported Friday. There were 762 active cases in Burleigh-Morton counties.
COVID-19 hospitalizations in North Dakota remained relatively stable Monday, at 122. The most recent state data showed about 8% of staffed inpatient beds available statewide and about 7.5% of intensive care unit beds open. In Bismarck, CHI St. Alexius Health had no available staffed general care beds but one open ICU bed; Sanford Health had none listed in either category.
No new deaths were reported Monday, but one was confirmed over the weekend. The Health Department no longer publicly reports the county, sex and age range of newly confirmed deaths. The dashboard death total for Burleigh County increased by one, to 284; Morton County's total was unchanged, at 131.
There have been 183,013 confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Dakota during the pandemic, which is in its 23rd month. There have been 177,124 recoveries, 7,050 hospitalizations and 2,029 deaths in the state.
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 Monday 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; 43.6% 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.