BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of Health reported a slight decline in active cases on Monday, Nov. 29, as it continues to monitor for the new coronavirus strain which is causing global concern.

Last week, a highly mutated coronavirus strain, the omicron variant, was first identified in South Africa. More research is needed about the new variant, but because the strain has a high number of mutations compared to other strains, scientists believe it could be more transmissible. Further research is also needed to determine the effectiveness of existing coronavirus vaccines, but scientists believe they will offer protection.

No omicron variant cases have been identified in the U.S. so far, and North Dakota is monitoring positive coronavirus tests for the new strain, said Kirby Kruger, the state's disease control director.

Last week, the World Health Organization classified omicron as a "variant of concern" — its most severe designation. Cases of the omicron variant were identified in Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. Some countries, including the United States, have enacted travel restrictions from multiple countries.

Kruger said the North Dakota state lab randomly selects up to about 480 positive PCR tests each week to undergo genome sequencing, which identifies coronavirus variants. This process will continue for monitoring coronavirus strains in the state, including the omicron variant.

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Much is still unknown about the omicron variant, and Kruger said it is still important for people to get vaccinated and receive their booster shot if eligible.

"Vaccination is still our best tool," he said.

Although North Dakota reported a slight decline in active COVID-19 cases on Monday, experts are expecting an uptick in positive cases within the next few weeks as a result of Thanksgiving travel.

The following are the latest COVID-19 statistics from the North Dakota Department of Health:

Statewide case rates

  • NEW CASES REPORTED MONDAY, NOV. 29: 152
  • ACTIVE CASES: 2,517
  • DAILY POSITIVITY RATE: 10.17%
  • TOTAL KNOWN CASES THROUGHOUT PANDEMIC: 161,453
  • TOTAL RECOVERED THROUGHOUT PANDEMIC: 157,059

Cass County, which encompasses Fargo, had the most known active cases on Monday with 659 cases. Burleigh County, which includes Bismarck, had 351 active cases, and Ward County, which includes Minot, had 205.

The state's 14-day rolling average positivity rate was 7.38% as of Monday, Nov. 29.

Hospitalizations, deaths

  • ACTIVE HOSPITALIZATIONS: 166

  • DEATHS: 0

  • TOTAL DEATHS: 1,877

Vaccinations

  • FIRST DOSE ADMINISTERED: 388,391 (58% of population ages 12 and up)

  • FULL VACCINE COVERAGE: 366,710 (54.8% of population ages 12 and up)

  • BOOSTER DOSES ADMINISTERED: 108,796

The Department of Health encourages individuals to get information about vaccines at www.health.nd.gov/covidvaccinelocator.

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