North Dakota reports 17 deaths from COVID-19 while active cases continue to decline

The deaths reported on Thursday came almost entirely from the most populous areas of the state, including six from Burleigh County, three from each Cass and Grand Forks County and two from Morton County. The deceased were aged between 60 and 90 years.

The department says 1,260 North Dakota residents have succumbed to the disease since March. The state averaged nearly nine deaths a 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 during the course of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least 758 of the deaths in the state occurred in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. There are 78 residents of infected nursing homes in the state, down more than 300 since the beginning of the month.

Over the past month and a half, active cases of COVID-19 have steadily declined from more than 10,000 on November 12. Now, 2,321 North Dakota residents are known to be infected with the virus, down from 68 on the last day. COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased four since Wednesday and now reach 122.

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Healthcare professionals have started receiving their first doses of the newly released COVID-19 vaccine, and nursing home residents will be eligible for their first vaccines next week. As of Tuesday, December 22, nearly 5,700 doses have been administered and more than 14,000 more have been delivered to the state.

Public health officials have urged North Dakota residents to avoid trips and large gatherings at Christmas and New Year festivities. The state did not see much increase in cases after Thanksgiving, and experts hope to avoid a sudden increase in January.

Before the holiday, the state is offering free quick tests at a series of events in Bismarck. Residents can take a 15-minute antigen test at the Gateway Mall from 10 am to 4 pm on Thursday, December 24, although the event is only for those without symptoms of COVID-19. Separate events will take place at the same location on Saturday and Sunday, 26 and 27 December.

The department reported 226 new cases on Thursday, including:

About 2.7% of the 7,665 residents tested in the last batch had a positive result, and an average of 5.2% of those tested in the last two weeks had a positive result. The state has yet to say how many residents had negative results on rapid antigen tests, although 38 of Thursday’s positive results came from the new 15-minute tests.

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