North Dakota on Course to Break COVID Death Toll Record in October, As ICU Beds Run Low

The number of COVID-19 deaths in North Dakota in the month of October appears to be on track to break the record set in September, as ICU beds in the state run low.

With just less than half of the month remaining, figures from the North Dakota Department of Health show that there have been 103 coronavirus fatalities in October to date.

This compares to a total of 120 deaths recorded in September, the highest of any month in the pandemic by far. The previous highest total was recorded in May—43.

Overall, 370 North Dakotans have died as a result of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

More than 60 percent of these deaths have come in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, with the 80-plus age group accounting for 236 of the state's fatalities.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have surged over the course of October and the state is running out of beds. As of 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, North Dakota had 19 available staffed ICU beds and 236 free staffed regular inpatient beds across the whole state.

The number of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state is 207—38 of whom are in ICU units. These figures include people who are hospitalized for reasons other than COVID-19 and later test positive for the disease.

Renae Moch, the director of Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health, told Newsweek on Monday that the the state's outbreak is pushing hospitals to the limit.

"The larger hospitals are always staffed and meant to be run at a high level of occupancy," Moch said. "That is how they manage efficiency and margins for their facilities, but in my lifetime, North Dakota has not seen anything like this where all hospitals are being impacted at the same time."

"This has the potential to lead to the cancelation of elective surgeries to free up hospital beds, which means potential delayed care for patients. At its worst, we could have nursing ratios stretched to where care becomes potentially less safe."

North Dakotans infected with coronavirus who are transferred out of the state for treatment are not tracked by the health department, spokesperson Nicole Peske told the Grand Forks Herald.

On Thursday, the state reported a record-high number of active coronavirus cases—a total of 4,947. The state has set a new record for active cases every day since October 4.

North Dakota also reported 705 new confirmed cases on Thursday, as well as five new deaths. New daily cases have been rising steadily since July, with the state counting a record of 715 on October 13.

North Dakota currently has the most COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita out of any state in the nation, date collected by The New York Times shows.

COVID-19 testing
Stock image showing a COVID-19 test sample. North Dakota currently has the most COVID-19 cases per capita out of any state in the nation. iStock