More North Dakota counties at elevated risk for COVID-19; weekly case total nears 2000 – Bismarck Tribune

More North Dakota counties have been moved into an elevated risk level for coronavirus transmission, as weekly COVID-19 cases in the state approach 2,000.

Cases have been rising the past four months, driven by highly contagious mutations of the omicron variant of the virus. The state Health Department’s coronavirus dashboard on Friday showed 1,952 confirmed cases in the past seven days, up 4% from the previous week, up 23% from a month ago and up 80% from two months ago.

BA.5, a subvariant of omicron, has become dominant in the U.S. and has driven a surge in new infections worldwide. Health officials say it has shown a remarkable ability to get around the protection offered by infection and vaccination, according to The Associated Press. It’s believed to be the subvariant that recently sickened President Joe Biden.

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“BA.5 and its sublineages continue to be the main circulating subvariants of omicron in North Dakota,” state Medical Services Section Chief Kirby Kruger told the Tribune. “Of specimens collected and sequenced since July 3, 68.1% have been in the BA.5 lineage. Of specimens collected and sequenced since July 24, 92% have been in the BA.5 lineage.”

kirby kruger.jpg

Kirby Kruger

The weekly COVID-19 case totals this summer are still nowhere near North Dakota’s pandemic peak last January, when the highest seven-day total reached 15,850. And while statewide cases have been rising recently, the total for Burleigh and Morton counties has been sliding since mid-July. There were 232 new cases in the two counties over the past week, down from the previous three weekly totals of 264, 323 and 331.

Burleigh and Morton counties still are considered at high risk for COVID-19 transmission, however. Twenty-one other North Dakota counties also are at high risk, and 20 are considered at medium risk, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The total of 43 is up 13 from last week. The other 10 counties are considered at low risk.

County risk levels can be found at https://bit.ly/3Clifrq. The CDC recommends that people in high-risk areas wear a mask indoors in public and on public transportation, regardless of vaccination status. 

There were 91 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in North Dakota over the past week, up from 74 the previous week. Coronavirus patients still make up a low percentage, however — about 4.5% of occupied inpatient beds and 5% of intensive care unit beds statewide.

Federal data showed two new virus-related deaths in North Dakota in the past week, raising the state’s pandemic total to 2,309. County-level death data is not available. There have been 259,2709 confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Dakota during the pandemic that began in March 2020.

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Federal data shows that North Dakota continues to have some of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country: 67% of adults in the state are fully vaccinated, with the rate for all vaccine-eligible people — age 5 and older — at 60.6%. The national averages are 77.1% and 71.4%, respectively. 

COVID-19 booster shots are recommended for people 12 and older. North Dakota’s first booster rate is 46.3%, compared to 49.7% nationally. Second booster doses are available for three main groups of people:

  • All adults 50 years and older.
  • All people 12 years or older who are moderately to severely immunocompromised.
  • Adults 18 to 49 years who received two doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. 

State Health Department guidance and resources for businesses is at https://bit.ly/3w0DpKj

Go to https://www.ndvax.org or https://bit.ly/3N3IMxb or call 866-207-2880 to see where COVID-19 vaccine is available. Information on free public testing and free test kits is at health.nd.gov/covidtesting. More detailed pandemic information is at www.health.nd.gov/coronavirus and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

Reach News Editor Blake Nicholson at 701-250-8266 or blake.nicholson@bismarcktribune.com.

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