BISMARCK — Capping off the harshest week of the COVID-19 outbreak in North Dakota, the state health department on Friday, Sept. 25, reported eight deaths, a pandemic high in active cases and 436 new infections.

Health officials confirmed the deaths of three Stark County women, a Burleigh County man, a Burleigh County woman, a Morton County man, a Ward County man and a Ward County woman. The eight residents were all between 60-99 years old and had underlying health conditions, according to the department.

The department says 219 North Dakotans have died from the illness, including 72 so far in September alone. It's by far North Dakota's deadliest month of the pandemic with five days to go.

More than half of the state's deaths have come in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and some western North Dakota facilities are now seeing even worse outbreaks than Fargo nursing homes had at the beginning of the pandemic, said Chris Jones, the director of the Department of Human Services. It's unclear how many of the deaths announced Friday came in nursing home residents.

There are now 3,562 residents known to be infected with the virus. It's the seventh time in the last eight days the state has reached a new record in active cases.

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North Dakota leads the nation in new COVID-19 cases per capita over the last week, according to the New York Times. The whole region is experiencing a surge in cases, with South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Montana and Minnesota all identified by the publication as states where infections are "high and staying high."

The number of hospitalized residents remained at 89 from Thursday. Twenty-five patients are in intensive care.

Stark County, which includes Dickinson reported 101 new cases Friday. The county, which is also seeing two severe nursing home outbreaks, now has 379 active cases, the third most in the state.

Fifty-seven of the new cases reported Friday came from Cass County, which includes Fargo. The state's most populous county has 543 active cases. North Dakota State University has reported 99 cases of COVID-19 in the last two weeks.

Grand Forks County reported 48 new cases, bringing its active case count up to 251. The University of North Dakota says 53 students, faculty and staff have self-reported testing positive.

Thirty-six new cases came from Williams County, which includes Williston. The county now has 234 active infections.

Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck, reported 34 new cases Friday. The county has the most active cases in the state with 684. Morton County, which sits just west of Burleigh County and includes Mandan, reported 23 new cases and has 276 active cases.

Thirty-nine counties reported at least one case Friday, including many small, rural counties. All but two of the 53 counties in the state have at least one active case.

About 8% of the 5,470 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, but 11.9% of residents tested for the first time got a positive result.

North Dakota does not report a seven-day rolling average for positivity rate, but Forum News Service calculated the rate to be 7.1% for all residents tested and 12.5% for tests taken on previously untested residents. Both figures are the highest since Forum News Service began calculating the rates nearly two months ago.

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