North Dakota reports 24 new COVID-19 deaths, a one-day reporting record

A sign on a sidewalk reads "protect the herd outside, too."
A sign notes coronavirus-related guidelines on North Dakota State University campus in Fargo, N.D., last month. On Wednesday, 24 more people in North Dakota were reported dead from COVID-19, more than the number reported on any other day of the pandemic in the state.
Matt Mikus | MPR News file

By Adam Willis | Forum News Service

Twenty-four more people in North Dakota were reported dead from COVID-19 on Wednesday, more than the number reported on any other day of the pandemic in the state.

According to the latest report from the North Dakota Department of Health, two dozen new coronavirus deaths were reported in North Dakota between Tuesday and Wednesday. There were more deaths reported in the state Wednesday than in the entire months of March, April, June or July.

The Department of Health noted a significant lag time in reporting the wave of new deaths, noting that six individuals reported Wednesday died between four and seven days ago. Eighteen of the deaths reported on Wednesday occurred since the beginning of this week.

In total, 304 people have died from complications related to the coronavirus in North Dakota since March, according to the Department of Health. Deaths have been spiking in North Dakota over the last five weeks, and the state reports that 116 people died during the month of September. In just the first seven days of October, another 41 people have died.

The 13 men and 11 women reported dead Wednesday came from 11 different counties and all had underlying health conditions, according to the health department. Five of the deaths came from Morton County, which sits west of the Missouri River from Bismarck. Four deaths came from rural Bottineau County, where a nursing home has suffered a massive outbreak.

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North Dakota also reported 495 new COVID cases on Wednesday, bringing the statewide active case total up to 3,706.

The massive mid-week death toll comes as the North Dakota health system has experienced a shortage of hospital beds in the last week. As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 39 ICU beds and 245 standard, inpatient beds available in the state, according to an internal tally by the North Dakota Department of Health. These numbers differ 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 spokesperson Nicole Peske.

Compared to last week, the strain on statewide hospital capacity seems to have eased, with most major hospital systems reporting more open ICU and inpatient beds on Tuesday afternoon. The number of statewide hospitalizations remained stable on Wednesday, with 116 people reported hospitalized due to coronavirus complications.

But the situation remains tight in certain local hot spots. Bismarck, Dickinson and Minot are all managing especially heavy patient volumes, leaving just four ICU beds in Bismarck on Tuesday, three in Dickinson and three in Minot. All three health systems also reported shortages of inpatient beds, with fourteen in Bismarck, four in Dickinson and one in Minot.

The state's largest hot spot persists in Burleigh County, where 80 new cases were reported on Wednesday. Burleigh and the neighboring Morton County, which encompass Bismarck and Mandan, are reporting 883 active cases.

A hot spot in Cass County, which encompasses Fargo and West Fargo, continues to grow, reporting 134 new cases on Wednesday, more than any other county. Cass is reporting 621 active cases.

Hot spots also persist in some smaller western counties. Sixteen new cases were reported in Stark County, which includes Dickinson, in Tuesday's report, for 256 active positives in the county. Meanwhile, Williams County, which encompasses Williston, has 240 active cases, and Ward County, which encompasses Minot, is managing 242.

About 7.9 percent of the 6,260 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, and 13.8 percent 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 7.3 percent for all residents tested and about 13.5 percent for tests taken on previously untested residents.