BISMARCK — Only 28 days after North Dakota reported its 500th COVID-19 death, the state's Department of Health announced on Friday, Nov. 27, that its total COVID-19 death toll has now eclipsed 900 North Dakotans.

In less than one month, the number of residents who have either died with or due to COVID-19 has increased by approximately 80%, and after Thanksgiving — a holiday known for multiple households closely congregating in one space — health experts worry the prevalence of COVID-19 throughout the nation will rise rapidly.

Officials say it is likely states will not be able to tell what impact Thanksgiving had in terms of the number of new COVID-19 cases and deaths until around the second week of December, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

Of the state's total deaths, 336 have occurred in November, which makes it North Dakota's deadliest month of the pandemic so far.

On Oct. 24, the North Dakota Department of Health reported 448 COVID-19 deaths, and 34 days later, its death toll more than doubled with currently 902 deaths.

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Friday's five reported deaths included two women from Foster County and one resident each from Cass, Stutsman and Walsh counties. All were in their 50s to 90s.

The state announced 797 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and reported that there are 8,225 North Dakotans known to be infected with the virus.

COVID-19 hospitalizations increased to 309 residents, with 39 ICU beds and 270 in-patient beds filled.

North Dakota's hospital system is experiencing a staffing shortage, and a potential increase in cases could overwhelm the state's hospitals.

The number of active cases statewide has declined slightly this week, but this plateau may be misleading, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Around federal holidays, the reporting of new COVID-19 cases and deaths fluctuates due to several reasons, including many states experiencing a backlog of tests due to some testing sites and state offices not operating on holidays and weekends.

Since March, a total of 77,232 North Dakotans have tested positive for COVID-19, which means more than one out of every 10 North Dakotans has had COVID-19.

North Dakota continues to have one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the nation and leads the United States in the highest number of positive known cases per capita. South Dakota eclipsed North Dakota in its per capita death rate, but North Dakota and its neighboring states topped the charts in the number of deaths per capita as of Friday, according to the CDC.

The 797 new COVID-19 cases reported Friday included cases from the following counties:

  • Grand Forks County reported 123 new cases and now has 708 active positives.

  • Cass County, which includes Fargo and West Fargo, reported 122 new cases Friday. The county now has 1,650 active positives, making it the largest hot spot in the state.

  • Ward County, which encompasses Minot, reported 94 cases. The county has 847 residents known to be infected with the virus.

About 11% of the 7,302 residents tested as part of the latest batch received a positive result. North Dakota does not report a seven-day rolling average positivity rate, but Forum News Service calculated the rate to be about 12% for all tests.

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

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