BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of Health on Thursday, Sept. 30, reported one additional COVID-19 death, effectively doubling September's death toll in comparison to the previous month.

Forty-six COVID-19 deaths occurred in September, but that number will likely increase in the coming days as death investigations conclude. During August, North Dakota had 23 COVID-19 deaths, according to the Department of Health.

Though North Dakota is currently seeing more COVID-19 deaths compared to the summer months, September's 46 COVID-19 deaths is still dramatically smaller than the 500 deaths reported in November 2020.

The vast majority of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations that have occurred during the latest COVID-19 peak in North Dakota, which is largely fueled by the delta variant, are among the unvaccinated.

On Thursday, the Department of Health during a virtual town hall said about 8,000 North Dakotans have gotten a booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

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Only people who have received the Pfizer vaccine are eligible for a third dose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved booster doses for those 65 and older, residents of long-term care facilities, adults with underlying conditions and people in high-risk occupations.

Frontline workers, or those in high-risk jobs, include those in health care, teachers, and grocery store employees.

About 80,000 North Dakotans are currently eligible for a booster dose, said Molly Howell, state immunization manager.

Statewide case rates

  • NEW CASES REPORTED WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 30: 766
  • ACTIVE CASES*: 4,339
  • DAILY POSITIVITY RATE: 7.24%
  • TOTAL KNOWN CASES THROUGHOUT PANDEMIC: 132,158
  • TOTAL RECOVERED THROUGHOUT PANDEMIC: 126,208

*The Department of Health often amends the number of active cases after they are first reported.

Children under 12 years of age, who are not eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, encompassed 646 of North Dakota's active cases. Nearly 30% of North Dakota's active cases are residents under 20 years of age.

Burleigh County, which includes Bismarck, had the most known active cases on Thursday with 942 cases. Cass County, which encompasses Fargo, had 835 active cases, and Morton County, which includes Mandan, had 306.

The state's 14-day rolling average positivity rate was 7.18% — the highest since December 2020.

Hospitalizations, deaths

  • ACTIVE HOSPITALIZATIONS: 155

  • DEATHS: 1

  • TOTAL DEATHS: 1,611

Hospitalizations increased during September, with 155 currently hospitalized due to COVID-19. Four of these hospitalizations were children up to age 5 and a child between 12 and 14 years of age.

The COVID-19 death reported on Thursday was a resident of McIntosh County.

A total of 11 staffed ICU beds were available statewide as of Wednesday, Sept. 28, according to a Department of Health database. Bismarck's two hospitals had zero available staffed beds, and Fargo had six among its three hospitals.

COVID-19 is adding pressure on North Dakota hospitals, many of which are already experiencing staffing shortages. On Thursday, the Department of Health extended the waiver for temporary nurse aid registration in North Dakota because of the increase in cases and staffing shortages.

Vaccinations

  • FIRST DOSE ADMINISTERED: 366,015 (55.2% of population ages 12 and up)

  • FULL VACCINE COVERAGE: 339,227 (51.1% of population ages 12 and up)

These figures come from the state's vaccine dashboard, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which includes vaccinations performed at federal sites, reports slightly higher vaccination rates.

North Dakota ranks in the bottom 10 states in COVID-19 vaccination rate, according to the CDC.

The Department of Health encourages individuals to get information about vaccines at www.health.nd.gov/covidvaccinelocator.

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Readers can reach reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at mgriffith@forumcomm.com.