BISMARCK — As the pandemic continues to ravage North Dakota, the health department on Tuesday, Oct. 13, reported 12 deaths from COVID-19 and record-high numbers of active cases and virus-related hospitalizations.

Health officials confirmed the deaths of three Bottineau County women, a Bottineau County man, a Bowman County man, a McHenry County woman, a Morton County man, a Mountrail County man, a Walsh County man, two Ward County women and a Williams County woman. All of the victims were at least 70 years old and had underlying conditions, according to the department.

The four deaths in Bottineau come as a local nursing home battles one of the worst outbreaks in the state, though it's unknown if Tuesday's deaths are tied to the facility.

The department says 357 North Dakotans have succumbed to the illness since March, and deaths have been mounting at rapid pace over the last two months. The 90 deaths recorded in October put it on pace to be by far the deadliest month of the pandemic.

At least 212 of the state's deaths have come in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, many of which have been decimated by the virus in the last two months. Eight facilities have double-digit numbers of infected residents, including Minot's Somerset Courts, which has 56 residents who have tested positive, according to the department.

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There are now 4,600 residents known to be infected with the virus. It's the sixth day in a row the state has set a new pandemic record.

North Dakota has reported the most COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita in the nation over the last week, according to The New York Times. The whole region is experiencing a surge in cases, with South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Montana and Minnesota all identified by the publication as states where infections are "high and staying high."

The number of hospitalized residents due to the illness jumped to another all-time high at 158, and another 48 patients were initially hospitalized with some other ailment but later tested positive for COVID-19. Forty-one North Dakotans with the virus are in intensive care.

North Dakotans who are transferred out of state for medical care are not tracked by the health department, spokeswoman Nicole Peske said.

The state is battling through a shortage of available hospital beds as COVID-19 hospitalizations converge with strains on health care staffing and high noncoronavirus admissions. There are 29 available intensive care beds and 253 regular, inpatient beds in the whole state, an increase from Monday.

The situation is especially dire in Bismarck, where the two hospitals have one available ICU bed and three inpatient beds between them. Fargo's three hospitals have 18 open ICU beds and 29 inpatient beds, while Grand Forks' Altru hospital has three ICU beds and 16 inpatient beds.

The health department reported 517 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Forty counties reported at least one case Tuesday, including many small, rural counties.

Cass County, which includes Fargo, reported more than 160 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. The state's most populous county has seen a spike in new infections over the last two weeks and now has the most active cases in the state with 978.

Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck, reported 109 new cases Tuesday. The county has the second most active cases in the state with 745. Morton County, which sits just west of Burleigh County and includes Mandan, reported 32 new cases and has 264 active cases.

Grand Forks County reported 37 new cases, bringing its active case count to 310.

Twenty new cases came from Ward County, which includes Minot. The county now has the third most active cases in the state at 317.

About 10.1% of the 5,104 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result, but 15.3% 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 8.2% for all residents tested and 14.4% for tests taken on previously untested residents. Both rates are the highest since Forum News Service started tracking the figures at the beginning of August.

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