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Grand Forks County Commission briefed on record-high increase in COVID-19 cases for the county

The change represents the number of new cases last week in comparison to three weeks ago for a two-week increase of 316%. Grand Forks County has only had four deaths in that amount of time, which Dulitz said was on par with deaths during the delta variant outbreak, as well as the numbers seen during most of fall 2021.

The Grand Forks County Office Building. Photo by Nick Nelson for the Grand Forks Herald.
The Grand Forks County Office Building. Photo by Nick Nelson for the Grand Forks Herald.
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GRAND FORKS — Grand Forks Health Department’s Michael Dulitz provided a COVID-19 update at Tuesday’s Grand Forks County Commission meeting, in which he notified commissioners about a 316% increase in COVID-19 cases — the highest recorded county-wide increase since the pandemic began.

The change represents the number of new cases last week in comparison to three weeks ago for a two-week increase of 316%. Grand Forks County has only had four deaths in that amount of time, which Dulitz said was on par with deaths during the delta variant outbreak, as well as the numbers seen during most of fall 2021.

Commissioner Diane Knauf stopped Dulitz early in his presentation to ask if the county currently has the highest number of new cases of the pandemic.

“We are at the highest case level that we've ever been as of either today or yesterday,” Dulitz said. “...Case-wise, we are at the highest levels that we've ever been in the entire pandemic.”

Dulitz noted some positives, including a lack of increase in deaths and hospitalizations, as well as an increase in antigen and PCR testing over the same time period.

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“With that increase in the number of cases, we're in a different situation than we were in in the fall of 2020,” Dulitz said. “There's a significant increase in the availability of that home testing. So, you would think there's probably more positives out there than what are getting reported, but with that, we are really surprised to see the increase in testing that we're seeing overall.”

However, the increase in testing has added to the increase in positive COVID-19 results.

“We're seeing significant numbers of positive tests,” Dulitz said. “Our positivity rate is well above 15% right now, and on certain days and certain test types, the positivity rate can even float as high as 50% for a PCR test on a certain day. Single-day positivity rates for all tests combined are frequently in the 30% range.”

Dulitz compared the increase in cases to one seen fall 2020, but he said that previous increase fell off over time not too long after it began. Now, with the case number even higher, there isn’t an end in sight.

“In many ways, this is really new kind of territory that we're in, where we're having such high case counts compared to any other previous outbreaks next time,” Dulitz said.

Michele Thiel, Grand Forks County director of human resources, said 40% of county employees who have had to stay home and isolate themselves for COVID-19 have tested positive in the last six weeks.

“Another thing that always amazes me is that people, they brush it off, because they don't have underlying conditions, or they're not elderly or whatever,” Knauf said. “But a lot of people don't know that (they) have underlying conditions, you know? They haven't surfaced yet, and you don't even know it, and so they think they're safe. I don't get it.”

Commissioner Tom Falck asked Dulitz if the county was still vaccinating enough people, to which Dulitz gave a reassuring response.

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“We are still giving out a fair number of vaccinations in the community,” Dulitz said. “We can always be giving out more. We will always be happy to have our doors busted down at the vaccination center instead of the testing center.”

Jacob Holley joined the Grand Forks Herald as its business reporter in June 2021.

Holley's beat at the Grand Forks Herald is broad and includes a variety of topics, including small business, national trends and more.

Readers can reach Holley at jholley@gfherald.com.Follow him on Twitter @JakeHolleyMedia.
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