BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of Health on Friday, Oct. 2, announced that a record-breaking 111 residents are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and eight more residents have died.

Officials recorded 90 North Dakotans were hospitalized in regular inpatient beds while 21 are in intensive care. This is the second consecutive day hospitalizations have increased.

North Dakota is experiencing a shortage in hospital bed statewide, with just 29 ICU beds and 244 regular inpatient beds available statewide, according to the latest internal tally from the North Dakota Department of Health. This is different from what the department reports on the state's public COVID-19 dashboard, because the state publicly reports the number of licensed beds at hospitals, rather than the number of beds staffed by medical professionals, according to spokeswoman Nicole Peske.

Of the eight deaths reported Friday, half were from Burleigh or Morton counties. A Benson County man, a Cass County woman, a Dunn County man and a McHenry County woman also died. All these North Dakotans were in their 60s to 100s and had underlying health conditions.

On Thursday, the state announced relaxed quarantine guidelines mainly "to provide a more positive school experience." The updated guidance states if a person tests positive and comes in contact with others, the close contacts will not need to self-quarantine if all parties were wearing a mask correctly and consistently. The exception only applies if the positive person and all close contacts were wearing a mask.

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There are now 3,739 residents known to be infected with the virus, and the state announced an additional 477 positive cases on Friday.

September ended with 109 deaths from COVID-19. This is more than twice the number of deaths compared to previous months and encompasses 41% of the state's total death count since the pandemic hit the state.

Cass County, which encompasses Fargo and West Fargo, reported the most new cases Friday with 85 additional case, and the county now has 615 residents known to be infected with the illness. North Dakota State University in Cass County said it has had 65 positive cases on campus in the last two weeks.

Burleigh and Morton counties, which encompasses Bismarck and Mandan, saw an additional 81 cases on Friday, and the metropolitan area now has 922 active cases.

Grand Forks County reported an additional 58 cases and 233 active cases. The University of North Dakota said it has had 40 positive cases on campus in the last two weeks.

About 7% of the 7,255 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, but about 14% 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% for all residents tested and about 13% for tests taken on previously untested residents.

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Readers can reach reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at