BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of Health on Friday, Aug. 7, announced 150 new cases of COVID-19 but reported an unusually high number of recoveries, dropping the state's active case count.

While reports of new coronavirus cases continued apace on Friday, a flood of 215 recoveries took the state's active cases down to 1,053. This marks the first time that recoveries have outweighed new cases in the last week and the most significant drop in active cases since early June.

The burst of recoveries comes as Bismarck and Mandan announced a revamped approach to the pandemic in an effort to address a resilient hotspot in North Dakota's capital region. At a meeting of the Burleigh-Morton COVID-19 Task Force on Friday, Bismarck Mayor Steve Bakken stressed the importance of containing the virus in Burleigh and Morton while saying that he would like to avoid delaying the reopening of local businesses.

Also at the meeting, Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health Director Renae Moch said that there is no single source for the high levels of transmission in Bismarck and Mandan but noted that the outbreak is most widespread among young people. Moch reportedd 86 active cases of the virus among 20-29 year-olds in Burleigh and Morton counties, the most of any 10-year age demographic.

Burleigh County continues to report the highest number of active cases of any county, adding 25 new cases on Friday. And while the county's active case count dropped to 260, it is still reporting more than double the number of active cases in Cass County, which has the second-highest county total. Combined, the neighboring Burleigh and Morton counties account for nearly a third of North Dakota's active cases.

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Of the new cases reported Friday:

  • Forty-four are from the Burleigh-Morton County region, which encompasses neighboring cities Bismarck and Mandan.

  • Twenty-seven of the new cases came from Cass County, which includes Fargo and West Fargo.

  • Nineteen of the new cases are from Stark County, which encompasses Dickinson.
  • Thirteen are from Williams County, which encompasses Williston.

These high numbers of new cases in Stark and Williams counties suggest a resurgent outbreak in western North Dakota.

A Benson County man in his 40s, reported Friday as having underlying health conditions, also died from the virus, marking North Dakota's seventh death in as many days and pushing the state's coronavirus death toll to 110. Benson County, which encompasses part of the Spirit Lake Reservation, has suffered a small spike in coronavirus cases lately, with the county reporting 54 active cases Friday.

About 2.6% of the 5,773 test results announced Friday came back positive, but 5.3% of residents tested for the first time received a positive result. North Dakota does not regularly report a seven-day rolling average for positivity rate as many other states do, but Forum News Service calculated the rate to be 4.9% for tests taken on previously untested residents.

All counties in North Dakota have reported cases of COVID-19, but some currently have zero active cases.

A total of 7,327 North Dakota residents have tested positive, but 6,164 have recovered.

The state has announced the results of 346,669 tests, and many residents have been tested more than once.

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Readers can reach reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at awillis@forumcomm.com.