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North Dakota reports 5 COVID-19 deaths, drop in active cases – INFORUM

The deaths reported Tuesday came mostly from the central part of the state, including two from Ward County and one each from McLean, Barnes and Steele counties. All of the latest victims were 70 and older.

The department says 1,238 North Dakotans have succumbed to the illness since March. The state is averaging nearly nine deaths per day in December, marking a drop from November when an average of more than 16 North Dakotans died each day.

At least 750 of the state’s deaths have come in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. There are 82 infected nursing home residents in the state, down more than 300 from the beginning of the month.

Over the last month and a half, active COVID-19 cases have steadily declined from more than 10,000 on Nov. 12. Now, 2,439 North Dakotans are known to be infected with the virus, down 356 over the last day. COVID-19 hospitalizations have also decreased in recent weeks and now sit at 135.

Sanford hospital in Fargo has seen a dramatic decline in COVID-19 admissions over the last month. The hospital is currently caring for about 20 COVID-19 patients, about one-fifth of its peak admissions in November, said Dr. Doug Griffin, vice president and chief medical officer.

Some hospitals in the state are still struggling with staffing crunches, and available intensive care beds are scarce. Health experts believe the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations will alleviate some of the staffing issues in hospitals as more doctors and nurses gain immunity to the virus.

Fargo Cass Public Health announced on Monday, Dec. 21, it will soon begin administering 300 doses of the recently approved Moderna vaccine to police officers, firefighters and other first responders in Fargo and West Fargo. North Dakota will target nursing home residents with the anticipated arrival of about 13,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine by the year’s end.

Public health officials have urged North Dakotans to refrain from travel and large gatherings for Christmas and New Year’s festivities. The state didn’t see much of an increase in cases after Thanksgiving, and experts are hoping to avoid a January bump.

In the lead up to the holidays, the state is offering free rapid testing at a series of events in Bismarck. Residents can seek a 15-minute antigen test inside the Gateway Mall near Planet Fitness from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, though the event is only for those without symptoms of COVID-19. The department is also putting on free rapid testing at the Bismarck airport until Dec. 27.

The department reported just 349 new cases on Tuesday, including:

  • 83 from Cass County, which includes Fargo. The county has 523 active cases.
  • 35 from Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck. The county has 326 active cases.

  • 30 from Grand Forks County, which has 176 active cases.

About 6.6% of the 4,242 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, and an average of 5.7% of those tested in the last two weeks got a positive result. The state does not yet report how many residents tested negative on rapid antigen tests, though 94 of Tuesday’s positives came from the new 15-minute tests.

Forum reporter Patrick Springer contributed to this report.

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