After 22 days in the green “low risk” category, the gauge Grand Forks Public Health workers put together to measure the risk posed by a novel coronavirus edged on Wednesday into the yellow “moderate” risk category.

The Grand Forks County Health Officer’s Dashboard takes into account the number of people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 over the past week, the proportion of people tested who’ve been found to have the virus, and a few other metrics, including Altru Health System’s self-assessment of how easily it could take care of new coronavirus patients.

Wednesday was the first day in March that the dashboard has indicated that the virus poses anything other than a “low” risk to Grand Forks County residents, largely because the county has recorded 49 positive tests over the past week.

The positive tests themselves and the distance between that figure and previous ones are the reasons for the jump in risk assessment. The county has recorded 4,249 tests over the past week, 2.2% of which have come back positive, and the hospital’s assessment of its “capacity” is optimistic -- those factors generally counterbalance the relatively high number of new positives and keep the overall risk assessment low.

The North Dakota Department of Health reported 11 new active COVID cases in Grand Forks County, bringing the countywide total to 61. It’s part of what Michael Dulitz, who is handling COVID-19 data analysis for the county, called a “slight surge” in cases over the past few days at a County Commission meeting on Tuesday, March 16.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

Still, the dashboard is at one of its lowest points since January, and Dulitz told the Herald he doesn’t see any reason for immediate concern.

“The question that is kind of in the back of everybody’s mind right now is what is the impact of some of the unknowns of the COVID virus mutations,” he said. “The variants that we’re seeing right now, they are becoming more prevalent, and ... we don’t really know one way or the other whether or not those variants are predominant in the community or anything like that.”

Dr. Joel Walz, Grand Forks County’s health officer, on March 8 removed a countywide mask mandate, citing what was then a 14-day long streak of “green” days. Walz said he had no hard and fast rule for potentially reinstating the mandate, but he and Dulitz both suggested that it might happen if the county returned to the orange “high” risk category.