BISMARCK — Active COVID cases in North Dakota turned upward again on Thursday, Sept. 17, and a recent spike in virus deaths continued.

The North Dakota Department of Health reported 394 new cases of the coronavirus in its latest report, pushing the state back to just shy of its pandemic record for active cases, following a dip over the previous two days. And the state reported five new deaths from COVID-19, four of them in the Burleigh County hot spot, adding to a grim trend that has developed over the last three weeks.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the state says 182 North Dakotans have died from the virus, including 39 residents whose deaths have been recorded just this month. COVID deaths tend to be a lagging metric, meaning that the recent spate could get worse over the next few weeks in the wake of this week's active case peak.

North Dakota reported 2,713 active cases on Thursday, just shy of the record 2,758 actives that the state hit on Monday.

The deaths reported on Thursday included one woman in her 90s in Ward County, as well as four deaths in Burleigh: one man in his 70s, one man in his 80s, one woman in her 80s and one woman in her 90s. All of the people whose deaths were reported on Thursday had underlying health conditions, according to the state's report.

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Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck, remains North Dakota's worst hot spot. The county reported 74 new cases of the virus on Thursday, pushing its active case count to 538. The neighboring Morton County, which includes Mandan, reported 32 new cases on Thursday, for an active case count of 226.

Cases in Cass County have also surged in recent weeks. Cass, which encompasses Fargo and West Fargo, reported 51 new positive cases in the latest report, and has reported 395 new coronavirus cases since Saturday. The county currently has 453 active cases, according to the department of health. And independent reporting by North Dakota State University discloses that the Fargo school has had 148 students and faculty test positive for the virus in the last two weeks, with 217 people linked to the school currently in quarantine.

Grand Forks County, which experienced a severe spike in COVID cases coinciding with the return to classes at the University of North Dakota, has come down slightly from its peak in late August. The county reported 18 new cases on Thursday and has 214 active cases, according to the department of health. Independent reporting by UND discloses 56 students, faculty and staff currently active with the virus.

Hot spots also persist in some smaller western counties. Sixty-four new cases were reported in Stark County, which includes Dickinson, in Thursday's report, pushing the county to 257 active positives. Meanwhile, Williams County, which encompasses Williston, is managing 197 active cases, and Ward County, which encompasses Minot, has 180.

Thirty-eight different counties reported new coronavirus cases on Thursday, and all but three of the state's 53 counties have at least one active positive.

About 6.1% of the 6,448 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, but 12.5% of those tested for the first time got a positive result.

North Dakota does not report a seven-day rolling average for positivity rate as many other states do, but Forum News Service calculated the rate to be 9.9% for tests taken on previously untested residents.

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