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North Dakota reports 17 COVID-19 deaths as active cases continue decline



The North Dakota Department of Health on Thursday, Dec. 24, reported 17 deaths from COVID-19 as the state continues to battle high fatality rates from the virus.

The deaths reported Thursday came almost entirely from the state’s most populous areas, including six from Burleigh County, three each from Cass and Grand Forks counties and two from Morton County. The deceased ranged in age from their 60s to 90s.

The department says 1,260 North Dakotans have succumbed to the illness since March. The state is averaging nearly nine deaths per day in December, marking a drop from November when an average of more than 16 North Dakotans died each day. However, the state has the third-highest number of deaths per capita in the country over the course of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least 758 of the state’s deaths have come in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. There are 78 infected nursing home residents in the state, down more than 300 from the beginning of the month.

Over the last month and a half, active COVID-19 cases have steadily declined from more than 10,000 on Nov. 12. Now, 2,321 North Dakotans are known to be infected with the virus, down 68 over the last day. COVID-19 hospitalizations rose by four since Wednesday and now sit at 122.

Health care workers have begun receiving their first doses of the newly released COVID-19 vaccine, and nursing home residents will be eligible for their first shots next week. As of Tuesday, Dec. 22, nearly 5,700 doses had been administered and more than 14,000 others had been delivered to the state.

Public health officials have urged North Dakotans to refrain from travel and large gatherings for Christmas and New Year’s festivities. The state didn’t see much of an increase in cases after Thanksgiving, and experts are hoping to avoid a January bump.

In the lead up to the holidays, the state is offering free rapid testing at a series of events in Bismarck. Residents can seek a 15-minute antigen test at Gateway Mall from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 24, though the event is only for those without symptoms of COVID-19. Separate events will be held at the same location on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 26 and 27.

The department reported 226 new cases on Thursday, including:

  • 37 from Cass County, which includes Fargo. The county has 480 active cases.
  • 31 from Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck. The county has 289 active cases.

About 2.7% of the 7,665 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, and an average of 5.2% of those tested in the last two weeks got a positive result. The state does not yet report how many residents tested negative on rapid antigen tests, though 38 of Thursday’s positives came from the new 15-minute tests.