The county, which includes Fargo and West Fargo, has recently seen a dramatic increase in infections including 237 new cases within the last three days. Cass’ count of active cases also rose sharply to 480 on Monday, giving it the second-highest amount in any county in the state.
With uptick, the current “low risk” county now meets the criteria for the yellow designation in active cases and the percentage of tests that come back positive. The county remains at a lower designation for the third principle criterion, the amount of testing performed on residents.
North Dakota announced its new criteria for COVID-19 risk levels Friday, April 4th. September. The criteria are now applied at the county level rather than a state level, said government Doug Burgum. Photo from the North Dakota Department of Health
Burgum said at a news conference Monday, Sept. 14, that Cass will not attend eight other North Dakota counties at the yellow level because of the specific context of the Fargo area outbreak.
The Republican governor said many of the cases in the state’s largest metro area have come to young people, including students from North Dakota State University who are at lower risk of suffering from a serious illness from COVID-19. He added that other high-infection areas such as the Bismarck and Dickinson subways report a higher proportion of cases among residents over the age of 70.
“We are trying to look at the data that underscores the numbers at the top level,” Burgum said. “Especially where the cases spread by age are something we look at because it will determine if we get pressure on admissions.”
However, Burgum noted that the county could become a candidate to move up to a risk level if the increase in cases continues next week.
The governor made no adjustments to any county’s risk level on Monday, but he noted that his office will look at Stark and Williams counties carefully over the next week. Stark County, which includes Dickinson, exceeds the criteria for a moderate risk group in active cases and positivity rate.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum announced on Thursday, September 3, that the official COVID-19 risk level will be adjusted by county. Blue counties are in the “new normal”, green counties have a “low” risk, and yellow counties have a “moderate” risk of the disease. Screenshot via North Dakota Department of Health
Burgum again rejected the issuance of a mask mandate to the state on Monday despite calls from top doctors.
The governor has repeatedly said the state relies on “personal responsibility” rather than a government requirement to encourage wearing a mask and notes that residents should have the right not to wear a mask in public.
However, in a separate version of public health versus personal freedoms, Burgum went the other way. The governor threw his support in 2018 behind an attempt to tighten seat belt enforcement in cars. Opponents of a bill to increase seat belt enforcement, which failed during last year’s legislative meeting, argued residents have the freedom not to wear seat belts.
Burgum said he sees how anyone could logically find his views on the two issues incompatible, but he added that he believes it is possible to issue a mask mandate would actually result in less mask wearing by the public. Burgum said that if that were the case with seat belts, he would also fall on the other side of this argument.
A June study by Health Affairs concluded that mandate masks reduce the rate at which COVID-19 spreads through communities.
ND reports registering active cases
Earlier in the day, the North Dakota Health Department reported 255 new cases of COVID-19 on another record day.
The department also confirmed that a Burleigh County woman in the 90s and an Eddy County woman in the 80s died. Like the vast majority of North Dakotans who have succumbed to the disease, both women had underlying health conditions, according to the department.
The department says 170 North Dakotans have died from the disease, including 27 residents whose deaths were reported in the past two weeks. 89 of the deaths have occurred in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. There are still three deaths that remain in a “presumed positive” category, meaning a doctor determined that COVID-19 was a cause of death, but the person was not tested for the disease while he or she was alive.
There are now 2,758 North Dakotans known to be infected with the virus – a new pandemic. 65 residents are hospitalized with the virus, including 19 patients in intensive care.
80 of the new cases reported Monday came from Cass County. North Dakota State University reports that 167 students, faculty, and staff have tested positive in the past two weeks.
Forty-two of the new cases came from Burleigh County, which includes Bismarck. The county has the most active cases in the state with 513. Morton County, which sits just west of Burleigh County and includes Mandan, reported 13 new cases and has 216 active cases.
Stark County reported 34 new cases of the disease, bringing its active number to 249.
Grand Forks County reported 32 new cases Monday, bringing the county to 273 active cases. The University of North Dakota reports that 61 students, faculty and staff are infected with the virus, and a further 232 people affiliated with the university are in quarantine.
Twenty-four counties reported at least one case on Monday, including many small rural counties. All but four of the 53 counties in the state have at least one active case.
Approximately 6.4% of the 3,959 residents tested as part of the most recent batch had a positive result, but 6.8% of those tested for the first time had a positive result.
North Dakota does not report a seven-day rolling average for positivity rate, as many other states do, but the Forum News Service calculated the rate at 9.3% for tests taken on previously untested residents.
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