BISMARCK — A massive testing day yielded multiple COVID-19 records in North Dakota on Friday, Sept. 18, as the state neared a benchmark of 3,000 active cases.
North Dakota has continued to add coronavirus cases to its active count at an unbridled pace this month, increasing its active case total by nearly 50% in just the last three weeks.
The North Dakota Department of Health reported a daily record of over 10,000 tests on Friday, as well as a record 508 new cases and a new pandemic high 2,986 active positives.
And North Dakota has emerged as one of the worst states for coronavirus transmission in the country over the last month, reporting the highest per capita infection rate of any state, according to the New York Times. And while North Dakota maintains one of the most robust testing operations in the nation, its high count of new positives also rivals new reports from much larger states: on Friday North Dakota reported more than half as many new cases as the latest report out of New York.
The North Dakota death toll has also spiked in recent weeks, with the state reporting 41 deaths from the virus since the beginning of September. Two of those deaths were reported on Friday, a woman in her 90s and a man in his 90s, both in Burleigh County and both reported as having underlying health conditions. Since the beginning of the pandemic, North Dakota has reported 184 deaths from COVID, and deaths tend to be a lagging metric, meaning that the recent spate could get worse in the coming weeks following this week's active case peak.
Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck, remains North Dakota's worst hot spot, reporting 84 new cases of the virus on Friday, the most of any county. Burleigh currently has 584 active cases of the virus. The neighboring Morton County, which includes Mandan, reported 33 new cases on Friday, for an active case count of 236.
Cases in Cass County have also surged in recent weeks and narrowly trail Burleigh for the state's highest active case count. Cass, which encompasses Fargo and West Fargo, reported 77 new positive cases in the latest state report, and is reporting 500 active cases. Independent reporting by North Dakota State University discloses that the Fargo school has had 119 students and faculty test positive for the virus in the last two weeks, with 187 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 66 new cases on Friday and has 247 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. Fifty-seven new cases were reported in Stark County, which includes Dickinson, in Friday's report, pushing the county to 287 active positives. Meanwhile, Williams County, which encompasses Williston, is managing 200 active cases, and Ward County, which encompasses Minot, has 217.
Thirty-eight different counties reported new coronavirus cases on Friday, and all but three of the state's 53 counties have at least one active positive.
About 5.2% of the 9,730 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, but 10.6% 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 10.2% for tests taken on previously untested residents.
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Readers can reach reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at firstname.lastname@example.org.