BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of Health on Monday, May 4 announced 34 new cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus.

The total number of positive tests for the virus in the state is up to 1,225, but 540 people have recovered from the illness, including 23 announced Monday. There are 31 residents hospitalized with the illness. Twenty-five North Dakotans, including 18 Cass County residents, now have succumbed to the illness, which has claimed more than 68,000 lives nationwide.

Twenty-five of the new cases Monday came from Cass County, which encompasses Fargo and West Fargo. North Dakota's most populous county now has 630 known cases — more than half of the state's total. The department reports that 244 Cass County residents who previously tested positive have recovered.

The other nine new cases Monday came from Grand Forks, Burleigh, Morton and Stark counties. Stark County, which encompasses Dickinson, now has 57 known cases.

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The department announced 1,401 test results Monday, marking the first day of this month the state and health care providers have failed to meet a goal of evaluating 1,800 tests daily. Gov. Doug Burgum has said the goal is to test 4,000 people per day by the end of May.

The North Dakota National Guard and the department canceled a mass testing event in Fargo on Monday, citing a shortage of supplies needed to evaluate COVID-19 tests in the state laboratory. Some future testing events, including one slated for Williston on Tuesday, will also rescheduled to a later date.

Burgum said Monday that a shortage of a piece of equipment that holds test samples caused the lull in test results over the weekend. The state lab will receive some of the pieces of equipment Monday from North Dakota State University's diagnostic lab, which had some on hand.

The governor noted the lab now has a backlog of about 5,000 test samples that will be evaluated in the coming days. Burgum said he expects the state will be back to announcing more than 1,800 test results on Tuesday.

Testing is currently prioritized for health care workers, those with symptoms of COVID-19 and vulnerable populations, including residents of nursing homes. The state has done some testing of the wider public at events in targeted communities, but it remains largely inaccessible to healthy residents.

A total of 34,754 tests for the virus have been reported by the state, and 36 counties now have at least one known case of the illness. However, Gov. Doug Burgum has previously said that the cases are reported based on patients' mailing addresses rather than their actual location in the state, so it is unknown where infected patients are isolating or seeking medical help.

Burgum also announced Monday that campgrounds at 24 of North Dakota's 25 state parks will reopen Saturday, May 9, nearly two weeks earlier than the original date for reopening. Only campgrounds at Little Missouri State Park in the western part of the state will remain closed until May 21. Playgrounds at the state parks are also closed, but trails, beaches and dog parks are open.

There may be some considerations made to space out campers, including the elimination of every other campsite and group sites, Burgum said. Access to restrooms, comfort stations, concessions and equipment rental will also be limited. Reservations of sites can be made on the state Department of Parks and Recreation's website.

Caring for the elderly

Even with many of the state's restaurants, personal care businesses and gyms reopening last week, Burgum has said great concern remains for the state's most vulnerable residents: people over 65 and those with underlying health conditions. He urged residents who fall in those categories to stay home for at least another two weeks after the closures end. An executive order restricting visitation at nursing homes remains in place.

The number of cases in residents and employees of nursing homes and long-term care facilities increased to 171 on Monday. More than three-quarters of the cases tied to nursing homes have come in Fargo, including 34 at Villa Maria, 23 at Eventide, 21 at Rosewood on Broadway and 13 at Bethany on 42nd.

Four nursing homes in Grand Forks have reported 13 total cases of the illness in the last two weeks, including Valley Senior Living on Columbia with six cases and Woodside Village Valley Senior Living with five cases.

Ave Maria Village in Jamestown has reported four known cases of illness, and Edgewood Jamestown confirmed one staff or resident case over the weekend. St. Luke's Home in Dickinson has also reported two cases of the illness.

Burgum has said the state is aiming to test every resident of a nursing home or long-term care facility in North Dakota.

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