BISMARCK — In a shocking milestone, North Dakota announced 37 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, Nov. 24 — a single-day high for a state in crisis.

The deaths come from all over the state, including nine from Ward County, five from Foster County, five from Barnes County and three each from Richland and Dickey counties. The youngest victim was in her 40s, while the oldest were in their 90s.

A total of 883 North Dakotans have succumbed to the virus since March. November is now the state's deadliest month of the pandemic with a week still to go.

Almost 60% of the state's deaths have come in residents of nursing homes or other long-term care facilities. Relief could be a long way off for the facilities — at least 555 nursing home residents and 570 workers are known to be infected with the virus. The four most-severe nursing home outbreaks in the state are in Ward, Foster and Barnes counties, which reported more than half of Tuesday's record death count.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, North Dakota health officials are strongly urging residents to limit their holiday gatherings to slow the spread of the virus. Models predict that the coming weeks will be critical for the state, which is why health officials nationwide, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are urging Americans to refrain from travel during the holiday season.

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Public health experts have warned that if North Dakota sees another spike in cases after Thanksgiving, it could further overwhelm a struggling health care system.

North Dakota's COVID-19 outbreak continues to be one of the worst in the nation. The state leads the country in number of positive known cases per capita, though South Dakota recently eclipsed North Dakota in its per capita death rate, according to the CDC.

On Tuesday, the state announced 1,019 new COVID-19 cases and a drop in active cases with 8,907 North Dakotans now known to be infected with the illness.

Hospitals across the state remain short-staffed, and on Monday, the North Dakota Emergency Commission approved allocating $15 million to hospital staffing statewide from the state's over $1.25 billion in CARES Act funds. The proposal must still go to the Legislature's Budget Section for final approval.

Hospital staffing has become so dire that 60 Air Force nurses were deployed to North Dakota to work in hospitals across the state, and many of them are arriving and beginning their positions this week.

Nurses from the U.S. Air Force, seen here on Sunday, Nov.22, are arriving in North Dakota to work in multiple hospitals throughout the state as hospitals continue to experience severe staffing shortages statewide. Screenshot from Department of Defense video shot by Master Sgt. Helen Miller.
Nurses from the U.S. Air Force, seen here on Sunday, Nov.22, are arriving in North Dakota to work in multiple hospitals throughout the state as hospitals continue to experience severe staffing shortages statewide. Screenshot from Department of Defense video shot by Master Sgt. Helen Miller.

The number of residents hospitalized due to the COVID-19 fell to 289 on Tuesday. Another 88 patients were initially hospitalized with some other ailment but later tested positive for COVID-19. Thirty-six residents with the virus are in intensive care.

The new cases reported on Tuesday came from 44 different counties:

  • Cass County, which includes Fargo and West Fargo, reported 341 new cases Monday. The county now has 1,614 active positives, making it the largest hot spot in the state.

  • Burleigh County, which encompasses Bismarck, reported 117 new cases. The county has 1,327 residents known to be infected with the virus.

  • Ward County, which includes Minot, reported 55 new cases, bringing its active case count to 900.

  • Grand Forks County reported 50 new cases and now has 889 active positives.

About 13.3% of the 7,677 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 13.6% for all tests.

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