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Grand Forks public health officials report low COVID case numbers

In the two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, drastic spikes and dips in cases characterized the disease activity. Now, Grand Forks Public Health reports low COVID-19 case numbers with only slight increases over the last couple of weeks.

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GRAND FORKS — In the two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, drastic spikes and dips in cases characterized the disease activity. Now, Grand Forks Public Health reports low COVID-19 case numbers with only slight increases over the last couple of weeks.

GFPH epidemiologist Shawn McBride said this week that recently there is a slow, upward trend of COVID-19 cases in the Grand Forks community.

“In general we do have more disease activity in the last couple weeks than we have had in the previous couple months,” McBride said.

But the change is “nothing drastic or significant,” according to McBride.

Positive COVID-19 cases, number of tests administered, percentage of hospital beds being used by COVID-19 inpatients, and vaccinations are tracked daily and reported weekly by GFPH in the Grand Forks Health Officer’s Dashboard.

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The number of new positive cases between May 20 and May 26 was 87, including 13 new cases on May 26. The seven-day positivity rate, or the average number of positive cases out of the number of tests over the course of that week, was 7.97%. GFPH administered 355 vaccinations that week. Only 3% of staffed hospital beds were in use for COVID-19 inpatients, as of May 27.

These figures vary only slightly from the week before. Between May 13 and May 19, 108 new positive cases were reported, and the seven-day positivity rate was 8.26%. The number of vaccinations administered that week was 395. That week, 1.9% of staffed hospital beds were in use for COVID-19 inpatients.

Kenneth Harvey, Altru Health System’s communications strategist, said on Tuesday that Grand Forks Altru “currently has no patients hospitalized with COVID-19.”

Testing numbers remain stable, with roughly 150 to 200 people being tested on a given weekday, said McBride. At-home COVID-19 testing kits are being dispersed for free at a number of businesses and organizations around the Grand Forks community, McBride said, and the GFPH encourages community members to self-test or get a rapid test if symptoms present.

Locations in which at-home testing kits are offered can be found on the GFPH website.

Given that the virus does not change drastically and that vaccines and natural immunity continue to provide strong protection against COVID-19 variants, McBride said the virus could soon become endemic. He expects to see increases in cases seasonally, especially in the fall and winter months, when the environment and numbers of susceptible people increase.

“That’s what we’ll typically see — this ebb and flow of case levels, as we do with many respiratory viruses that are similar to this. The difference now will be that we won’t see the serious risk to hospital care and the more frequent severe outcomes that we would have seen previously during the pandemic stages,” said McBride. He said transmissibility of the virus has reached its peak, and therefore another pandemic stage would likely only occur if the virus became much more immune-evasive.

Harvey confirmed this projection, stating that “since November of 2020, we have seen smaller increases in the number of inpatients but nothing as significant as then. This change is likely due to the virus becoming endemic in our region, the wide availability of vaccines and natural immunity acquired when someone is infected with COVID-19 and clears the virus.”

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GFPH, in accordance with guidelines set out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, does not have mask-wearing or social distancing recommendations for the “low” community level. They continue to encourage Grand Forks residents to test prior to meeting face-to-face with susceptible or high-risk persons, to follow isolation and quarantine guidelines after receiving a positive COVID-19 test or coming in contact with someone with a positive test, and to keep up-to-date with vaccinations and boosters.

Related Topics: CORONAVIRUS
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